“October was a less than ideal month for us, to say the least.

After a fast start which saw us 8 games unbeaten, we lost our way a bit and entered into some poor form that failed to gain valuable points. But thus is football, a game of highs and lows – the sport we love at times and hate at others.

That being said, despite our dip in recent form, we still stand at the top of the league. As the saying goes, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” There’s plenty more football to be played and absolutely everything to play for.

For those of you who have seen us play, you know that this is a different Ports side than that of recent history. An influx of talented youth players dominate our squad, with the team’s average age being just 19.5. This of course comes with a tradeoff of pros and cons – just like anything. On one hand, we have a group of incredibly talented youngsters who are just on the cusp of their professional careers. With that youthfulness comes a hunger that is seemingly missing in players whose best days are behind them. You see this in the flesh when you witness the times our squad is able to pop the ball around the pitch and play some truly quality football. At these times, it seems as though there is nobody in the league who can hang with us.

On the flip side, the tradeoff with this is a lack of experience. There is a learning curve for us that we can’t afford to get caught up in – a certain amount of “growing pains” if you will. This very much includes myself – even at 24 years of age & one of the older boys in the squad, I am still very much adjusting to the league.

Since my time here, I have submersed myself in the Irish League – both Premiership & Championship. I’ve watched as much football possible outside of Portadown to take in the league as best I can & get a better understanding for the Irish league. The biggest observation that I’ve seen between that of the Premiership & Championship is for what teams in the Championship lack in raw footballing talent & ability, they make up for in pure physicality and force. Though teams in the Championship may be “easier” to play against in terms of skill, they are at times much tougher to play against in terms of strength & that intangible brute force that is unique to only the Irish Leagues. This is only amplified by being the “big fish” of our league, every single team will always be at their best when playing a team with the history of Portadown.

We are an incredibly talented team that has all the potential in the world – but our talent will not be enough to win this league. It will take a weekly showing of strength & character in which every single player must pull his weight for the greater good of this team. It will not matter how much talent is on this team – if we fail to match & exceed the work rate of whoever we are playing, matches will become dogfights & points will be dropped.

The great Sir Alex Ferguson continually preached the idea of “willing sacrifice” – especially with that of his ’98-’99 treble-winning Man U squad that was made of numerous young players just entering their primes. It is the idea of willingly putting aside the personal & individual ambition players seek and rather only concentrating on team success. Giving up individual glory so that the team can achieve greater things. This could not be more imperative to our Portadown squad – we cannot just be a collection of talented individuals. Instead, we must be a unified team that has each and every player pulling in the same direction for the collective “we” & not the individual “me.”

Yes, October was less than ideal. But here we still are – top of the league and teeth still showing. Our youth filled squad gained valuable lessons the hard way. Now we grow upon these lessons and that starts this Saturday at Shamrock Park with Knockbreda.

We’re in this together, players, managers, fans – together.

As always, Up the Ports.