Barry Gray expects Cliftonville to face a thorough examination when they take on Nordsjælland in the Europa League.
This morning’s First Qualifying Round draw paired the Reds with the Danish side, who finished third in last season’s Superliga, and Gray – who joined Chairman Gerard Lawlor for proceedings at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon – admits his men are in for a tough test.
“When our opponents were narrowed down to five teams and you were mentally listing them from ones you want to get and ones you want to avoid, Nordsjælland were probably somewhere in the middle tier,” he explains.
“There are ups and downs from any draw and, from a footballing point of view, it’s certainly not the easiest team we could have got but, on the plus side, it’s easy for us to travel to and the logistics of that side of things are pretty straightforward.
“The first leg is only three weeks away, so it’s a case of now trying to do as much homework on them as we can and also focusing on where we are and how we go into the games.”
Gray, who will be taking charge of Cliftonville in Europe for the first time, also stresses the importance of not letting the occasion pass anyone at the Club by.
“It can be easy to overlook things and just get your draw, get your travel, get your matches played and move on, but the whole thing is a good experience and we should enjoy being there,” he adds.
“We all wanted to qualify for Europe and we should all make the most of it. Even the experience of being at the draw in Switzerland, then meeting up to talk with your opposition is something you should enjoy because not all teams make it into competitions like this and it’s great that Cliftonville are on this stage again.”
The first leg of the Reds’ tie with Nordsjælland is scheduled for July 12 with the return game taking place on July 19 and, while all arrangements remain subject to change, supporters are urged against making any travel arrangements whatsoever until both fixtures have been officially confirmed by the Club.