As the new Danske Bank Premiership season looms ever nearer, Barry Gray wants Cliftonville to build on the positives of their recent Europa League exploits against Nordsjælland.
Just 10 days remain until the Reds’ curtain-raiser with Glentoran at The Oval and, ahead of tomorrow night’s home friendly with Ballinamallard United, the boss is full of praise for his squad’s application throughout their schedule to date.
“Every player that was in the squad, in the panel and on the field over the two legs should be very proud of themselves,” he reflects.
“They put in a shift and a performance we could ask no more from and ended up with a very tight and narrow scoreline from two games when there was very little between the sides. Full credit to them, they deserve absolutely huge credit and the supporters that travelled over last week deserve huge, huge credit as well.
“There were fine, fine margins between us and a very professional full-time operation. We had four weeks prior to the game to build ourselves to a scenario where we can compete against a very good side and we did that with great grace and great respect for them. More importantly, there was a great belief in terms of what we could do as a team – I think we delivered that and left everything that we could possibly leave out on that pitch.”
Gray also believes that post-match frustration in the Reds camp in Denmark last week outlined precisely how close they had come to registering a huge European shock.
“The players were disappointed that lost the game and that was great to see, they should be,” he adds. “They have been ultra-professional in their approach and trusted in themselves and trusted in me in terms of how we set the team up – that is the big plus going forward.
“There is a real indication that the hard work we have put in over the last few weeks has got us to within touching distance of the next step. On we go to the next – our focus now is back on the League and I think we are in a massively positive position at this minute in time.”
Cliftonville v Ballinamallard United