As both the year of 2019 and indeed the decade ends, I wish to place on record not only my own thanks and appreciation but that of the entire Committee, Management and Staff to all who have contributed in so many ways to Cliftonville Football Club over the past 10 years.
The last decade has probably been one of the most distinguished in our history, with back-to-back League titles, four League Cups and two County Antrim Shields. The highs of those Championships – George Mc Mullan’s penalty and Champions League game at Celtic Park – will, I’m sure, live forever with those who experienced them.
Off the field, I’m delighted the Club has also shown growth in several areas, which has improved the overall financial position, stability and balance sheet of the Club. Let me assure you that is no easy achievement. I’m very grateful to all the Directors who served in the past decade and supporters who helped to achieve this. I can assure everyone the Club is in a strong and stable position.
I must also pay tribute to other areas of the Club, where numerous unseen volunteers work tirelessly for our continued growth and success, all those who assist with our Football Development Centre, Ladies and Academy teams.
The same applies to the many others including stewards, fundraisers, administrative volunteers and many, many others who give so freely of their time.
We have had our difficulties, too, over the past decade. We worked hard to overcome them and, most importantly, the learning was that as a united Club, we are a stronger.
We had a change of Manager early this year which saw Barry Gray depart and the arrival of Paddy McLaughlin. For some, 2019 could be a year of disappointment and sorrow but, as with all things Cliftonville, it’s never straightforward!
The team’s turnaround in the later months of the 2018/19 season and performances in both the Europa League Play Off Semi-Final and Final provided fresh optimism for the new term, while our Europa League campaign set us up for a positive start to the 2019/20 season.
Before the domestic action began, we were rocked by the sudden and untimely death of Tommy Breslin, a man without whom the glory of the decade wouldn’t have happened.
Some of us still struggle to find that Tommy is no longer with us but, for sure, he’d be smiling proudly as we sit top of the Premiership table to end the decade. This is a tremendous achievement and testament to the current management and squad; no mean feat in such a progressive and competitive League.
In closing, can I thank everyone who has played a part in our Club’s growth. No part is too big and none too small. To all our players, management, staff, sponsors and supporters, thank you and may you all enjoy a very happy and hopefully trophy-laden New Year.