Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin demands season starts now

Cliftonville celebrate
Cliftonville celebrate

Cliftonville chief Tommy Breslin proudly looked on as he team mounted the podium to be presented with the Wasp Solutions League Cup -- then demanded ‘let’s adopt Linfield’s trophy winning trend’!

Instead of sipping on a glass off bubbly and enjoying their penalty kick shoot-out win over Crusaders, Bressie told his boys their season starts right here.

It wasn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination in front of a live Sky Sport television audience, but the Red Army went home happy, even though it was uncomfortable viewing for must of the 120 minutes.

Goalkeeper Conor Devlin emerged the hero, saving form Colin Coates and Jordan Owens before Craig McClean lashed his effort against a post - the cue red and white celebrations.

Breslin admitted he had some ‘harsh words’ with his boys in the build-up to the game. He even had the audacity to urge them to adapt Linfield’s mentality in terms of wining trophies.

“We have to use this as a springboard,” said Breslin. “Our season starts right now. We just can’t pick and choose our games we perform in. I told the boys they must improve or they wouldn’t be here.

“We won the league title and the league cup last year, but we can’t be satisifed with that. It puts into perspective what Linfield achieved when winning six doubles in seven years. That takes sacrifices . . . it takes desire and hunger.

“It wasn’t a threat. I need these guys to step up to the next level. I also reminded them of champion jockey Tony McCoy’s attitude. He always wants to improve on the day before. That’s something we must learn.

“Prior to the cup final, we only had six clean sheets out off 35 starts - you’ll not win anything with that form. So I told the guys that effectively our season started today. We have 15 games to play - that’s the challenge that is put down to the players.

“It wasn’t an exchange of views, or a finger pointing exercise. I simply laid it on the line. I included myself in some of the comments - perhaps we all had taken our eye off the ball.

“Our focus is now on retaining the league title. The only team that I fear is ourselves. I don’t want to get into the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome - good one week, bad the next.

“In two games, Coleraine scored seven goals against us. It’s the same defence that played against Linfield three or four weeks ago and never gave them a kick.

“So, good performances are in this team, it’s only a matter of getting it out of them on a consistent basis. The potential is there - the age profile is good, so we can’t just rest on our laurels.

“We have to at least match what we did last year. All our focus is now on the league.

“Linfield lost a little bit of ground drawing with Ards on Friday night. But they are still five clear. I would love to be in that position any day of the week.”

Breslin and his boys, however, wrote themselves into the record books as it was the first time in over a century that the club managed to retain a trophy. But he insisted, unlike last year, there will be no long-lasting celebrations this time

“When it goes to penalties it’s a lottery, but I was happy to come out on the right side at the finish,” he quipped

“We battled hard . . . it was a better performance I got from the boys on Tuesday night at Coleraine. It was much improved. We defended really well against tough opposition.

“Although we had already pulled two of our regular penalties takers out of the action - Marty Donnelly and Liam Boyce, we had no trouble in getting volunteers . . . five guys immediately put their hands up to hit them.

“We have been involved in quite a few penalty shoot-outs and came out on the wrong end. So that’s another hoodoo broken.”

Breslin also saluted shot stopper Conor Devlin, who has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks, following an incident in a Belfast nightclub.

“Conor certainly did his homework and it paid off as he saved two penalties. He was up analysing the Crusaders penalties at 3am.”