Gary McAlister: It was a real honour to follow in Glenavon legend Gary Hamilton's footsteps - but I'm not interested in job full-time

Glenavon's Jack Malone celebrates after scoring the winning goal in their 2-1 triumph over Carrick Rangers. PIC: Alan Weir/Pacemaker Press
Glenavon's Jack Malone celebrates after scoring the winning goal in their 2-1 triumph over Carrick Rangers. PIC: Alan Weir/Pacemaker Press

​McAlister, who is head coach of Glenavon’s U20 side, was drafted in to first-team duties late on Wednesday evening alongside Chris Chambers and Mark Haughey following the departure of Hamilton after almost 12 years at the club.

The post-Hamilton era started on a winning note as Aaron Prendergast and Jack Malone both netted at Mourneview Park – the former barely two minutes after his introduction from the bench while Malone calmly slotted home a 81st minute penalty following Danny Purkis’ sublime equaliser for 10-man Carrick moments earlier.

“It has been a tough week for everyone at the club, as has been well-publicised, with a manager who has been here a long time and who will go down as one of the greatest in the history of this club, if not the greatest,” said McAlister. "Gary is a great person and a lover of Glenavon.

"Two Irish Cups, a series of third-placed finishes and he finished at least seventh every season, so there is no doubt he will go down as a legend.

"When you step back and look at his record and the players he has brought through, I don’t think anyone can question that.

"To have that opportunity to follow him, even for a short spell, is a real honour and something I’ll always remember.

"I learned a lot from Gary during my time here and he has built a legacy and put Glenavon as one of the top teams in this league.”

It was perhaps poetic that Prendergast – a player McAlister brought to Mourneview Park from Cliftonville in 2020 while managing the U16 side – scored the opening goal after also netting twice on Monday night for his new interim manager’s U20 team in a 3-3 draw with Ballymena United.

Another replacement – Stephen Teggart – provided the assist for the 19-year-old and McAlister says Glenavon have great quality in their changing room.

"When you have players like Tags and AP on the bench who can go and do something at the top end of the pitch you want to use them,” he added. "The 15-minute spell after half-time we played some lovely stuff up to the goal.

"If we can take anything out of it is that we’ve good players in this team and we need to utilise them the best we can and get them on the ball.”

It’s unclear if McAlister’s temporary reign will extend to Saturday’s away clash at Crusaders with a number of people linked to the role, but if it is to finish after one successful result, it’s an experience he will always remember.

"I’m happy enough with the Reserves,” said the former Glentoran academy coach. "It has been an amazing experience.

"We were delighted to get that opportunity and that we were able to win.

“It gave me an insight into something I might want to move towards, but I’m happy at this stage where I am.”