Paddy McLaughlin says he has sensed a bigger buzz around his players as they close in on this weekend’s return to competitive action.
Cliftonville begin their defence of the County Antrim Shield in Saturday’s first round encounter with Knockbreda and, almost eight months on from their last meaningful outing at Solitude, the Manager admits he is similarly enthused about the new season getting under way.
“It’s been such a strange year right across the board, inside and out of football, but a lot of work has gone in to getting Irish League football back on the road and we’re delighted to be getting back into it,” he says.
“There’s been a bit more bite about the boys in training this week because, having looked forward to it for so long, we’re all very excited to have competitive football back and I’m sure our supporters are looking forward to seeing us in action again at long last.
“Just as I knew they would, the players looked after themselves throughout the extended break and, though it might take a few games to shake off any rustiness that’s still lingering in there, I believe we can hit the ground running and hopefully a win against Knockbreda can set us up for all the fixtures that will be coming at us thick and fast in the weeks ahead.”
McLaughlin also reaffirmed his commitment to giving young players an opportunity to shine and says he’s looking forward to the continued development of a number of Solitude’s young guns.
“Id be mad not to tap into the youth structure that’s in place here at Cliftonville, the Academy here is one of the best in the country,” he adds.
“A few of the young lads in the squad were involved last season but there are others in the Olympic and the Strollers teams who are knocking on the door and I know our fans always like to see kids coming through and being given their chance. Developing our own players is always something we should strive to do.”
Cliftonville v Knockbreda
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