Wakehurst hopeful of return to Ballymena

WAKEHURST remain optimistic that their spell of ‘exile’ from Ballymena will come to an end at some stage in the near future.

That was the clear message as the Championship Two club held their end-of-season dinner in the Tullyglass House Hotel on Friday night.

Wakehurst have been forced to play all of their games outside of Ballymena due to a lack of a ground which meets the criteria for Championship football within the borough.

They have an influential backer in the form of newly-elected MLA, Councillor Paul Frew, who told guests at the function that he is working hard towards finding a solution to Wakehurst’s plight.

Those sentiments were echoed by Councillor Maurice Mills and club chairman Billy Erwin who was upbeat after the club’s future after an encouraging seventh place finish in a highly competitive league.

Speaking to Times Sport after the dinner, Wakehurst manager Ian Gregg said: “To borrow from Samuel Beckett’s phrase, we ‘failed better’.

“We failed because we were in and around the top four for most of the season but we lacked consistency and fell away a bit but the season confirmed my view that the talent is there within the club, if not the consistency needed to challenge for titles.

“But it’s a good platform for next year and I have three or four players lined up who can possibly help us and we will hopefully make a push in the league,” added Gregg, who, in his address to guests, reiterated his belief that a good intermediate level side in the town complements the senior club, Ballymena United.

The manager is likely to start next season without Arron Lemon, who made such an impact after joining from Ballymena in January - he looks likely to join Championship One side Larne.

And several other clubs are believed to be keeping tabs on striker Jason Paul, whose 17 goals in a dream debut season earned him both Wakehurst’s Leading Goalscorer and Players’ Player of the Year accolades.

For the first time, the club’s Player of the Year award was shared, with Ryan Gregg and Stephen Gage unable to be separated.

For more pictures from the event, see this week’s Ballymena Times.