Rory Hale has thanked Paddy McLaughlin for the role he has given him at Cliftonville and credits the boss with helping him rediscover his confidence.
The midfielder, who crossed the North Belfast divide from Crusaders just before Christmas, made a positive impression on his debut as the Reds battled from behind to see off Dungannon Swifts and was then on the scoresheet against his former employers when the sides met in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Solitude.
Though disappointed at being unable to plunder full points from the occasion, Hale is relishing his responsibilities in the middle of the park.
“Paddy said he wanted me to get some creativity and positivity into the team, going forward, getting runners into the box,” explains the 24-year-old.
“We’ve been working on that. I can play in the holding role but to get the best out of me, I like to play in front of someone who’s going to be sitting and I think Paddy’s definitely got the best out of me in the last two weeks so there are plenty of positives to work on.
“I just needed to get back playing every week and get my confidence up. Paddy’s definitely got the confidence back into me.”
As well as being in no doubt that his 42nd minute equaliser crossed the line, Hale also relished producing an all-action display against opponents with whom he’s more than familiar.
“It was definitely in!” he exclaims.
“Rodney Brown’s done unreal to get back in and clear it, so my heart was in my mouth a bit but I’m delighted to get off the mark and hopefully there’s plenty more goals to come.
“It was a big sickener that we didn’t get the win and we’ve got to take the positives out of it, but it feels like a defeat at the minute. Paddy doesn’t want us to feel like that because for 92 minutes, we were outstanding. We outworked them, out-battled them, outplayed them – but that’s what Crusaders do, they fight to the last kick of the game, they pile the pressure on.
“We’ve got to deal better with that and work on our game management, but there were positives to take out of that performance.”
On his own display, he adds: “Every Club I’ve been at, I’ve been more of a technical player for the team but I’ve learnt most of my physicality from being at the Crues and being that terrier-type player where you get close to people and win second balls so I’ve learnt a lot of my game through that.
“I knew what I was coming up against because (Stephen Baxter) is telling his players what he’d told me to do a year-and-a-half ago, a year ago – getting right down them, clean into them, not letting them get a yard or a touch, so I knew what was coming.
“In the first-half, I got frustrated because I wasn’t getting the decisions that I thought should have been given but, in the second-half, it was more that I just played my football and the more I got down to hard work, the more I grew into the game.”