Barry Gray says Cliftonville’s display in yesterday’s 3-1 defeat of Crusaders underlined the talent in his squad and reveals he challenged the players to prove a point to themselves by registering back-to-back North Belfast Derby triumphs.
Two Joe Gormley goals either side of a Rory Donnelly strike got the Reds off to a whirlwind start at Solitude, where Jordan Owens’ late effort proved little more than a consolation for the visitors – but didn’t take the shine off anything for the Manager.
“Winning the game was pleasing but what was even more pleasing was the performance,” he says.
“It was miles and miles above anything we’ve seen in recent months, possibly even this season so far. Nobody doubts that we can deliver, our big challenge now – and the players know this, I know this and the management team know it – is about delivering it consistently. The next target is to back up a good performance with another good performance and another good result.
“The players know they’re good enough to play and I know they are as well, but that performance and result will give everyone a hundred times more belief than I ever will verbally or they ever will verbally. Doing is believing.
“We said before the game, ‘Go and show yourselves, go and show us. Forget about showing anyone else, show how good we are, bring confidence and be brave on the ball’ – and the way we started the game was probably the best start to a game we’ve had this season.”
Gray was also pleased to welcome Barry Johnston into the dugout for his first game since assuming a coaching role with the First Team.
Relinquishing his post as Cliftonville Strollers boss, Gray believes Johnston (below) – who made 303 appearances over three spells with the Club between 1999 and 2014 and who recently, almost accidentally, came out of retirement to briefly feature for Sport & Leisure Swifts – will bring a fresh dimension to the Reds’ backroom staff.
“Barry’s been brought in because I would like him to demonstrate, hands-on with the players, what it takes to be a successful Cliftonville player,” explains Gray.
“I can’t stand up in the changing room, kiss the badge and be patriotic for Cliftonville. I haven’t been here long enough to do that and it would be unfair for me to do it.
“Barry’s job is to get hands-on with the players and share his experiences – good times and bad times, he’ s seen a lot here at the Club. He’s detached from being a player but not far enough into management to be detached from our current bunch of players and he understands what any Cliftonville team needs.
“He’s here to motivate the players in the Cliftonville way – and that is now my brand of what I want to stamp on the team. If he had played for me, me and him would have got on like a house on fire, there’s no doubt about that. He understands what I want him to do in the changing room and he’s been very effective on the training ground so far. That’s no disrespect to, or undermining of, any of the current staff because everyone has their role – and he has a dedicated job.”
The Club are, meanwhile, pleased to announce the appointment of former Cliftonville midfielder Seamus Heath to the role of Strollers Manager.