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Sproule hangs up boots ahead of derby clash

VAN Sproule has called time on his playing career.

The former Hibs and Bristol City star confirmed this week that his appearance against HW Welders last weekend was his final act.

Sproule, 38, said he was struggling to combine the roles of manager and player.

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“It’s extremely hard to do the both,” he said, ahead of this weekend’s derby clash against Ballinamallard.

“There are a 101 jobs to do as a manager of a Championship club and many outside the club have no idea the workload involved.

“One job is taking away from the other, so the time has come to hang up the boots.

“My decision to play on this season has been to the detriment of the squad. I have found it hard to coach players and have a clear head to play a game. Not having to play will allow me to concentrate on meeting some of the other demands.”

Sproule’s decision to concentrate solely on managing comes after a disappointing 3-0 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Welders which leaves the North Tyrone men third bottom.

The 11-times capped Northern Ireland international admitted it had been a poor performance and said there would be a lot of soul searching to be done this week ahead of the trip to Ferney Park.

“We’ll search our souls this week and see where that takes us,” he said.

“It’s as bad a performance as we have had. It was a year to the day since I had taken charge.

“For me it was one of the most disappointing days we have had but at the end of the day I think we pulled off a bit of a miracle last year to keep the team up.

“We reassessed things over the summer and tried to bring players in. But we lost three of our most influential players stat-wise at the start of the season, Matthew Kirk, Emmett McGuckin and Lee McNulty and I suppose we have found it hard to replace that quality.

“Saturday’s performance and how poor it was was a combination of that catching up with us. It’s something we have to reassess and fix going forward.”

Given their recent troubles most would think the last thing Sproule and his charges need is a derby clash against Ballinamallard United, who, by contrast, are riding high having won six of their last seven league games.

Harry McConkey’s team are now just two points off the summit and will be odds on with the bookies to put one over their great rivals come Saturday.

Sproule, though, believes the second derby of the season has come at the right time.

“There’s no better time,” he said.

“Players are hurting after Saturday and I think their pride was dented.

“The team has been fairly competitive this season, there are teams out there who have been beaten five and six nil on the occasional Saturday.

“That said the losses are there and the stats don’t lie. But the players themselves have never embarrassed themselves too often.

“They have never given too many under par performances. The previous week we went to Portadown and were beaten 2-0 and that’s the only thing people will care about. But had you been at the game after 80 minutes we probably deserved to be 2-0 up.

“Saturday was a terrible performance which was unacceptable by the players and the coaching staff but as a whole over the course of the season and squad we have got I can’t ask for much more out of them.

“Ballinamallard are probably the best side we have played this season and we ended up getting a result against them at home.

“They are a side in form, they reached the Irish Cup Final last year, everybody knew they were going to be up there challenging this season. They have a strong squad, a good manager and are a club established for a long time.We as a team have changed two or three managers in the last three or four seasons.

“Ballinamallard will start as strong favourites and there are a lot of people in our camp hurting but I don’t think they should hurt too much.

“We have had one really poor performance, it happens to all teams. I won’t be pulling lumps out of my squad and telling them they need to do this and need to do that.

“I know what they are giving me, I know what they gave me against Loughgall and Portadown. We haven’t got a squad to match Ballinamallard but at the same time we have to find a way and plan to give them a game.”

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