CHRIS AIMING TO BE A PREMIER WITH KING LOUGHGALL; The MOTd interview MAXIE SWAIN talks to CHRIS KINGSBERRY Former Red Devil is happy scaring the life out of defences in the Championship.
LOUGHGALL winger Chris Kingsberry is determined his exile from top flight football will be just a fleeting one.
The former Linfield attacker made the surprise decision to drop down into the Irish League's second tier at the end of last season, wooed by Niall Currie's vision for the Ladbrokes.com Championship's pre-eminent team.
For a player schooled across the water at Manchester United's feted academy at Carrington, and later at Sunderland, a switch to the battlescarred plains of the Championship might have seemed a tough decision.
Yet Kingsberry insists he is "loving every minute".
In recent years, the Villagers have been cruelly denied their place among the country's elite after winning the Championship title in two out of the past three seasons.
But this season, the Lakeview Park club are finally in a position to gain their Domestic Licence - a pre-requisite for entry into the Carling Premiership.
All that's left now for Kingsberry and co is the not trifling issue of gaining promotion.
After a demoralising spell at Lisburn Distillery - at the time a relegationhaunted club seemingly lurching from one financial disaster to the next - the chance to be part of a vibrant and ambitious club has been a breath of fresh air.
Moreover, Kingsberry has unfinished business in the country's top flight and there's only one way for Loughgall to get there.
"I know I can play Irish League, I've no doubt in my ability to play there but after what happened at Lisburn Distillery - I wasn't getting paid and I wasn't enjoying it - sometimes you need to get away, take a step back and see what you want to do," said Kingsberry.
"I wanted to get out of football for a few months and decide what I wanted to do and that's when Niall gave me a ring and asked if I fancied coming to Loughgall this year and I said yes and I'm really, really enjoying it.
"What's good for me is I'm playing every week, playing 90 minutes. It's a short career and you want to be playing so I'm really enjoying it and they're a real good bunch of boys to work with.
"This year the main thing was to play and start enjoying it and obviously the news is if we win it [the Championship], we go up.
"That was in my mind when I was signing, knowing I could go there, play, have a good season and hopefully with that help the team get back up to the Premiership.
"And I've been happy with my form. I started off the season like a house on fire, playing really well and working hard.
"I want to play my football in the Premiership and that's what all the boys need to concentrate on, to make sure we're up there with a chance to win the league.
"There's nothing worse than winning the league and not being able to move up, it's pointless so this year, I was told, if we win the league we can go up and that made me put pen to paper to try and help them achieve that."
Kingsberry was once Northern Ireland football's boy wonder, with the world at his dazzlingly quick feet.
Capped at every international agegroup up to the under-21s, he once starred alongside Rangers midfielder Steve Davis as Northern Ireland lifted the Victory Shield for the first time in the competition's history back in 2000, with the diminutive winger grabbing a last-minute winner against Wales to lift the trophy - all in front to the rolling Sky Sports cameras.
By that time, Manchester United had already made their move, signing the prodigiously-talented Lisburn Youth starlet at the age of 14 where he was to come under the tutelage of Paul McGuinness, Neil Bailie and the legendary Eric Harrison - hailed to play in Premiership as the man who unearthed United's golden generation of the Neville brothers Gary and Phil, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and David Beckham - at United's star-studded academy. "There were some great players at United while I was there," said Kingsberry."Kieran Richardson was a real good player from a young age - a cocky wee shit too!
"He was strong, stocky, had great ability and a great touch - a real good player. They were all good players, Chris Eagles was there, Phil Bardsley too.
When I look back at it now, I realise I was a very lucky lad, I was working with United from nine years of age [when Kingsberry first attended Manchester United's school of excellence in Belfast].
They are quite astute the way they bring you in, I was going over in the summer, then over at Christmas and eventually, by the age of 13, I was hardly ever playing for Lisburn Youth because I was going over every weekend and eventually I moved.
"It was a dream, I signed a five-year deal there, a two-year contract first because I was still at school and a three-year contract after that then on my 17th birthday I decided to move to Sunderland.
"I played with some great players at Sunderland too, the likes of Julio Arca and Jason McAteer when they played for the reserves. Arca was probably one of the best for me, a fantastic footballer."
Kingsberry returned from England at the age of 19 to join his boyhood idols Linfield, becoming an integral part of the Blues' grand slam class of 2005/6. Spells at Bohemians, Distillery and Bangor were to follow before last summer's move to the Orchard County.
Kingsberry admits he loved his first season at Distillery, thriving under the management of the colourful Paul Kirk yet it is his short but glittering spell in south Belfast which he singles out as the pinnacle of his career so far.
Kingsberry said: "The highlight was definitely winning the grand slam at Linfield. I've supported Linfield all my life,my dad has took me since I was three or four years of age, I went and watched them every week so to come home and sign for them and be put straight into the first team, and to win the grand slam and be a part of that, was a dream.
"My dad's a Blues fanatic too and he didn't get to see me that much when I was young so it was nice for him to be able to come down to Windsor and see his son playing.
"To be at the biggest club in the world, Manchester United, was also a highlight, playing with the players I did and being coached by the coaches I did, same as Sunderland, was top notch. I have had some decent clubs, that's for sure."
During his time at Linfield and also at Distillery, Kingsberry showed plenty of glimpses of the talent which took him across the water as a youngster yet the suspicion remains his talent lies largely unfulfilled.
Indeed, at just 25, it's likely Kingsberry's best years are still ahead of him.
A box-of-tricks winger with arguably the quickest feet in the Irish League, Currie pulled off quite a coup signing him for Loughgall.
And now Kingsberry is hell-bent on proving there's much more to come from him on the flanks of the Irish League.
"I'm still young enough, I'm still fit and I want to play at the highest level," he added. "I would still love professional football again, it's starting to get later on in my career but it's still in the back of my head that I would love to do it, whether the opportunity arises again I don't know.
"But all I'm concentrating on now is producing it week in week out for Loughgall and trying to help them win the league to get up into the Premiership."
CRUES V BLUES Kingsberry in action against Crusaders' Martin Donnelly at Seaview WATCHING BRIEF Chris during his spell at Lisburn Distillery surveys the scene against Bangor PAIN TO SEE The flying winger is grounded by injury while playing for the Blues in 2006 GOING SOUTH The Belfast man had a short spell at Bohemians in the League of Ireland BERRY QUICK Kingsberry is taken down by Portadown's Chris Coleman while with Distillery CAPITAL GAINS Kingsberry celebrates scoring during his medal-filled time at Linfield OLD PALS During his time on the books of Manchester United, Kingsberry came through the ranks with 'cocky' Kieran Richardson, left, and Chris Eagles WING KING Kingsberry in action for Loughgall against Limavady this season SUITS YOU, SIR Chris Kingsberry is enjoying life under Niall Currie at Loughgall