Release Date: Nov 07, 2011
GARY Hamilton has returned to the Big Two with a bang, writes Alex Gulrajani.
The Glentoran striker arrived back at the Oval after a loan spell at Glenavon wary of his future but a deal was struck and the 31-year-old was back in the first-team fold.
He returned in goal-scoring fashion – netting a minute after coming off the bench against Donegal Celtic – but Glentoran struggled for consistency.
Despite beating Linfield at Windsor Park, Scott Young's side suffered defeats at home to Cliftonville, Donegal Celtic, Portadown and Ballymena.
But in October, they managed to win every game with Hamilton scoring five goals, and as a result, he was named the Carling Football Writer's Player of the Month.
"It's a great recognition for myself but you can't do anything without your teammates," Hamilton said after receiving the award.
"In the last month, we've been very good. In defence, we haven't conceded too many and going forward we're playing some good football, scoring a lot of goals on the way. I think any one of our team would have been deserved winners of this award – particularly Stephen Carson and Jimmy Callagher."
In all competitions, the Glens have only conceded three times while scoring an incredible 24 goals. Even more remarkable is that only one of those wins came at home – a 2-1 victory over Portadown in the IRN BRU Cup.
But Hamilton admits playing away from the Oval has contributed to the unbeaten run that included league victories over Glenavon, Lisburn Distillery, Dungannon Swifts and Donegal Celtic.
"We've struggled at home so far this season and when we've been away, something is different," Hamilton said.
"You look around the dressing room and the lads look more confident. When you're playing at the Oval, visiting teams come and they sit in, and it's getting that first goal that's the problem. Sometimes it doesn't come, you get hit on the break and all of a sudden you don't know what to do.
"But away from home, we've scored for fun. Sometimes it's only been 1-0 at half time and a bit of a battle in the first half. Some of the sides we've played are happy to bide their time looking for an equaliser but once we've grabbed a second, they start to push on and then we've been clinical."
Throughout his career, Hamilton has pointed to relationships he has had on and off the pitch. One in particular is with Kyle Neil. Their understanding was built at Shamrock Park before the pair played together at Glentoran.
When Neil left the Oval for Glenavon in 2010, Hamilton soon joined him on loan at Mourneview Park. This year, Hamilton has had to start fresh and luckily he's found an ample replacement in Stephen Carson.
"Every good season I've had, its been when Kyle's been in form as well," Hamilton said.
"When I came back at the start of the season, I was going 'flip – there's no Kyle Neil' and I was looking around thinking I've got to build a relationship up with someone else.
"It's just come naturally with Stephen Carson. He's such an intelligent and brainy footballer. He's a complete player – and our relationship as managed to work so far and long may it continue."
Arguably one of the league's best players, the former Northern Ireland international is enjoying his football and happy to keep proving the doubters wrong.
"I'm one of these people who takes everything in my stride but at times, deep down you hurt and you're down in the dumps but I never show that," Hamilton admitted.
"I go on the pitch and do my best. I'm 31 now and I know there's not going to be another ten years of my career so I need to enjoy every game I play.
"People keep saying 'you're not doing it' or 'you're finished' – and probably to this day there are some Glentoran fans are still haven't accepted me but that's the way it is. I believe in my own ability, I know if I get the chances I will score goals and I'll make goals for other people."