Rory Hale reveals that one thing he won’t miss on North Belfast Derby Day is running the gauntlet from his own friends!
While bedecked in the colours of Crusaders, the 24-year-old often found himself on the receiving end of some good-natured taunting from his Cliftonville-supporting pals and admits it will make a nice change to have them on his side when the teams meet in future.
More important than that, though, is his belief that he can be the man to help the Reds turn recent tales of fine margin frustration into richer rewards.
“I would have gone to Cliftonville matches when I was younger and my dad is still a fan, so I know what the Club means to people,” he says.
“A lot of my mates are Redmen, too, and I’d have heard everything from them when the derbies came around. From the build-up, during the games and for days after, they’d have been on at me, so that’s a headache I’m hopefully not going to have from now on.
“I’m really pleased to have got the deal done so quickly and it’s great to have everything sorted out because sometimes things like this can drag on a bit, but to have signed for Cliftonville before the Transfer Window even opens was a big relief.”
Well aware of the quality in the squad he’s joining, Hale – who progressed through the Cliftonvile Academy before stints at Aston Villa, Galway United, Derry City and the Crues – is excited by the prospect of helping the team realise its potential.
“I think a lot of the results recently have come down to concentration and confidence – and both of those links can be linked together at times,” adds the former Republic of Ireland Under-21 star.
“The Larne game, they lost in the final seconds. I watched the game against Linfield a few weeks ago and there was nothing in it. Linfield scored two goals in three or four minutes at the start of the second-half and that was it. Cut those few minutes out and there was nothing between the teams, it was down to a lapse in concentration after the teams came back out.
“In the Coleraine game last week, they conceded a goal a few minutes after Ryan Curran had a header saved on he line. Any other time, he puts that away and it’s Cliftonville who go 1-0 up. Instead, they’re 1-0 down soon later.
“We need to turn 1-0 defeats into 1-0 wins and build from there. Everybody saw the sort of run this team is capable of going on this time last year and there’s no reason why that can’t happen again. Hopefully I can come in and make that difference to help us turn defeats into draws and draws into wins.
“We’re not that far away and, as players, we’re the only ones who can start to turn things around.”