FOOTBALL FEATURE: Johnny Black enjoying life to the full Down Under

Johnny Black when with Coleraine
Johnny Black when with Coleraine

Former Irish League defender Johnny Black admits he is loving life in Australia following spells with Glentoran, Coleraine, Linfield and Portadown.

The popular full-back moved Down Under in 2013 and admits he is loving life in his new surroundings.

“Life is completely different over here,” Black said.

“It is easier to make ends meet and live comfortably. Work is very relaxed and you’re never asked to do anything over the ordinary.

“Your day is often going to work and then straight to the beach for a kick around or a beer.”

The 29-year-old made his breakthrough in the Irish League with Glentoran under the management of Alan McDonald in 2008, making his debut against Derry City in the Setanta Cup.

“I owe Big Mac a lot for giving me my chance as he really knew how to ease me into Irish League football,” Black added.

“My debut was in the Setanta Cup away to Derry City and I remember sweating on the bus when he told me. He was a gentleman and taken from us far too young.

“Scott Young deserves a mention for pushing me to get a chance and the Head of the Academy Stephen Lowry who helped me come through the ranks.”

The Monkstown man believes he was at a big club too soon in his career, but the highlight was capturing the Irish League title in the 2008/09 season.

“It was really enjoyable and a top club to play for,” Black continued.

“I just don’t think I was ready for the pressure at the club at such a young age.

“There were highs at under age level as I think we were the first team from Northern Ireland to win the Foyle Cup and the Reserves winning the George Wilson.

“Of course the main high was winning the Irish League on the last day of the season against Cliftonville.

“I can’t describe the feeling I had that day and probably won’t feel it ever again.”

Black was to be released at the end of the 2010/11 season by Scott Young, before joining Coleraine after turning down a switch to Crusaders.

“I was disappointed to be released but I think Scott was right to do so,” Black revealed.

“I wasn’t carrying myself as a Glentoran player should have been and I respect his decision.

“I’m glad I chose Coleraine over Crusaders at that time. The club is such a tight club it’s like a family and as for Oran, it was probably the best phone call I’ve received in football.

“We were like close mates as he got me and knew how to get the best out of me. As a man-to-man manager he’s on a different level.

“Trevor McKendry, Gregg Shannon and the late Wes Gregg were the perfect coaching staff. It was a perfect mix, we all knew when there was time for carrying on and when it was time to work.”

Black was to be a fans’ favourite at The Showgrounds and is known for his famous free-kick strike against Portadown in September 2011.

“Without doubt, I had my best year of football at Coleraine,” Black stated.

“I loved every minute of it, scored 8 goals before Christmas from left-back and was playing the best football of my career.

“The only low was picking up a slight injury and the cup final defeat to Crusaders.

“However, the fans were brilliant and I still have a lot of friends down there.

“The goal against Portadown is well documented, but I noticed that David Miskelly was lined up at the far side of the goal expecting me to clip it into the back post as a cross. I thought if I catch this right, he’s in trouble and thankfully it went in.”

After spending a year on the North Coast, Black pursued a life in Australia, until then-Linfield manager David Jeffrey came calling for his services.

“I had planned to go to Australia and about two months before I was going to go, I got a call off my mate Ryan McLoughlin, Brian’s son, saying would I be interested,” Black explained.

“Being a Linfield fan as a kid I couldn’t turn it down. I’d dreamed of it for years and remember on Boxing Day fixtures at The Oval and Windsor Park saying I’m going to play in this one day.

“David was brilliant with me, he’s the best manager the league has had and a top man. We had a tough year that year and he backed the boys up through thick and thin.”

Black was to pen a short-term contract with Portadown, before moving to Australia were he is currently captain of St. Kilda Celtic.

“As a Rangers supporter, I’ll probably get a bit of stick for this, but I’m captain of a team called St. Kilda Celtic in State League 1,” Black said.

“The standard is probably bottom of the Irish League. There are no clipping balls into the channel and turning teams, it’s all total football which I probably needed to improve my game.

“I was playing in the National Premier League for a few years which is probably just a bit better than the Irish League, but I couldn’t commit to four or five days a week with my job.”

Black still keeps an eye on developments back home and admits he would love to see Coleraine win the Danske Bank Premiership – but believes Crusaders are the team to beat.

“I’d love to have another year in the Irish League to see how much I’ve improved, but I just can’t see me leaving this country anytime soon,” Black acknowledged.

“If I was betting, I’d say the Crues will kick on and win the league title.

“But my heart wants Coleraine to win it for the fans, Oran and the staff at the club.”