FORMER Coleraine defender Johnny Black is the latest player to talk about his time in the Blue and White Stripes…
The Monkstown man came through the ranks at Glentoran, before putting pen-to-paper with the Bannsiders in August 2011 and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Cliftonville.
Despite only playing at The Showgrounds for a single season, Black was a firm fans’ favourite and scored eight goals from left-back in 30 appearances. This included a memorable free-kick from his own half against Portadown, a last gasp winner against Cliftonville in the League Cup, amongst others.
Johnny would have spells with Linfield and Portadown but has spent the last few years in Australia and he spoke to Jonathan McNabb about his career and what the future holds.
Q1. You joined the club in 2011 after your release from Glentoran; was it hard to leave the Glens after making your Irish League debut for the club?
To be honest, I wasn’t released on anything to do with footballing ability, it was to do with me being young and making stupid decisions.
Scott Young was right in removing the contract offer for my behaviour and that was maybe the wake up call that I needed.
I had many great successful years at Glentoran from youth level right through to the first team and I’m truly grateful to everyone at the club as that’s who gave me the chance to play in the Irish League.
Leaving Glentoran was the kick up the back side that I needed as the next year proved with Coleraine.
Q2. How did Oran Kearney sell Coleraine to you? Was the promise of first-team football a massive sway in your decision?
I don’t think Oran had heard or knew much about me, but I vaguely remember he called someone from Linfield.
It might have been big Winky for a reference and thankfully he said ‘sign him’.
Oran was very persistent and persuasive because I wasn’t going to play that year at all.
My plan was to take a year out and figure out what I wanted to do, but he persuaded me to come and have a look and I’m glad I did.
Q3. You have said that your year with Colerane was one of your most enjoyable to date in football – is this still the case? Are you surprised by Oran’s instant impact at St Mirren?
Yes, the year with Coleraine was my most enjoyable so far personally as I think I’d scored 7 or 8 goals before the Christmas injury, before narrowly losing out to Crusaders in the League Cup final.
In saying that, winning the league with Glentoran in my first season with the first-team was a better outcome.
As for Oran’s impact at St. Mirren I’m not surprised at all. He was always going to go further than Irish League in my eyes because man to man as a manager and a person he just knows how to get the best out of every player.
As a person, he’s an absolute gentleman and that goes a long way when you have all your players on your side.
I had many arguments with a Coleraine fan on Facebook that he was the man for the job and thankfully that was true.
Q4. You scored some memorable goals for the club – but what was your favourite? Surely the winner against Cliftonville is up there?
This might surprise a few people but my personal favourite was the Saturday when we returned to Solitude to play Cliftonville in the league.
I’d scored the winner on the Tuesday I think and then some kid punched me after the game, but the following Saturday after we were 1-0 down, I was getting dogs abuse and scored right in front of their stand.
I loved playing up there and loved scoring against them even more so.
Q5. You spent a year with Linfield – a club you have supported all your life – that must have been a dream come true?
It definitely was a dream come true.
I had planned to go to Australia, then a friend at the time his Dad was the assistant manager at Linfield and he said ‘would you be interested in signing for Linfield?’
I thought it was a wind up and hung the phone up, but then he rang back and said ‘no seriously they want you to come and train’, so I cancelled a Kings of Leon concert and went training and signed a deal.
I supported Linfield as a kid and tried my best to get to any game I could right up to I was 16 years old. All my family supported them too, so it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
It wasn’t the year we’d hoped for trophy wise, but it was still a goal I had as a kid to play for Linfield.
David Jeffrey offered me a new deal to stay, but I just felt I needed something new.
Q6. You are now currently living in Australia – how is life Down Under? Do you still keep an eye on Irish League football?
I watch the Irish League Show every Sunday when I wake up and praying that I’ve got a bet up.
I’m usually not too far away with the picks, but it is great to see the Irish League develop some great talents such as Brad Lyons and Gavin Whyte in recent years.
Q7. Do you still play football? Is a potential move to the Irish League a reality in the future?
I’m playing State League 1 over here and it’s a decent standard, very fast paced and the clubs look after you well for anyone thinking of coming over.
As for a return to Irish League, yes I’d love one more year.
I’m back home around November and December time and will be staying until the summer at least, so I will be looking a club around then.