Matthew Tipton on value of ‘building something together’ ahead of derby return

Matthew Tipton’s preparations for the most eagerly-anticipated festive derby in five years featured a break from the traditional path but one which only served to strengthen his sense of club and community before facing old rivals Glenavon.

Due to a combination of the Ports’ top-flight relegation and last season’s coronavirus impact, players representing the two near-neighbours will today compete for Mid-Ulster festive Premiership points for the first time since 2016.

Tipton recently took time out of training and tactics to help supporters with a club community project to deliver food parcels to the elderly and vulnerable around town.

It was a brief break away from life in the football bubble at a time dominated by matchday plans and transfer talk but one Tipton feels only helped to emphasis the importance of Portadown’s role within community life.

Portadown manager Matthew Tipton (left) with supporters during the club's meal delivery project to the elderly and The Simon Community. Pic courtesy of Portadown FC.

Tipton, born in Wales who walked into Shamrock Park as a 2011 signing following a career built on scoring goals for over a decade in English football, has always embraced the bond between Portadown and the people.

It proved part of the appeal when the opportunity arrived to return as manager in 2018.

“It was a great idea and wonderful chance to just give a little something back,“ said Tipton of the project involving We Are Ports, Eden Reds Supporters’ Club and club sponsors The Head O’ The Road that resulted in the delivery of Christmas meals to the elderly and The Simon Community. “It certainly helps reinforce a sense of perspective as often we can think football is everything.

“I’ve always felt it simply part of my job, as a player or manager, to be accessible to supporters and it’s something we work on and want to build at Portadown.

“The passion for this club in the area is something that struck me when I first arrived and I’m excited for Monday as it’s going to be the first full house since I came back as manager.

“That link between our fans and players is something I’ve used in the past when selling a move to transfer targets but this year is the first chance to experience it in full.

“I want Monday to be a showcase for everyone at the club - a showcase for our fans and for our players.

“Some inside the ground may not have seen this squad and it would be great if they leave the game wanting to come back and get behind the team again in the future.

“I think fans appreciate a team out on the pitch that is honest and a group of players giving everything for the club.

“We want players to take some time after games, no matter the result, to mix with fans and it is all about us building something together.

“That sense of togetherness can be about the link between fans in the stand and players on the pitch or, like the meals delivery, beyond football and our responsibility to help those members of our community less fortunate.

“The players can only be inspired by a full house and we want to inspire the fans on Monday - those already so loyal who have been with us for past times good and bad but also those who have maybe lapsed or have a viewpoint based only on the league table.

“Days like a derby in front of a capacity crowd should only help us push forward.”