IRISH LEAGUE: Gray confirmed as new Red boss

New Cliftonville manager Barry Gray.
New Cliftonville manager Barry Gray.

New Cliftonville manager Barry Gray described his appointment at Solitude as "an honour and a privilege" after he was officially unveiled at a press conference on Wednesday evening.

The former Warrenpoint Town boss, who succeeds Gerard Lyttle in the Reds' hotseat, said he had not been planning on a return to club management but couldn't turn down the opportunity at a club that "ticked all the boxes."

"It's an honour and a privilege to be named manager of Cliftonville Football Club," said Gray, who will be assisted by Harry Fay in a backroom set-up that will also include Stephen Small as First Team Coach.

"I've had a bit of a growing connection with Cliftonville over the last few years, due to the amount of meetings I had with them at Warrenpoint. I always seemed to have a pretty good record in those games and I think a mutual respect has grown over the course of that time.

"I didn't really expect to be back in management quite so quickly because I'd always have been quite fussy about what club was right for me and ticked all the boxes. Cliftonville does that, no question about it. There would have been very few other jobs that I'd have been interested in so, when the opportunity arose, it's not something I had to think about."

Gray led Warrenpoint from Mid-Ulster junior football to the Irish Premiership during a highly successful decade in charge at Milltown during which time his team had a reputation for playing attractive football and that's a mantra he is keen to continue at Solitude.

"My ethos has never changed no matter what level I've managed at," he explains. "I like my teams to play attractive football at a high tempo and that's what I'll be setting us up to do.

"I'm excited by some of the players, particularly at the top end of the pitch. If you let them cut loose and attack, they'll flourish because it's what comes natural to them. We'll also look to add the right personnel to complement that, but I certainly feel like I'm familiar enough with the squad that I know what we need and where we need it.

"Cliftonville fans like good, attractive, entertaining football and I can certainly promise them that's what we'll be working on from day one."

Reds Chairman Gerard Lawlor believes that the new manager can help the Club realise its potential after a disappointing season which saw them miss out on European qualification.

"First of all, I must say I'm very happy to have secured Barry in the job," said Mr Lawlor.

"We had a lot of interest from people inside and outside of the Irish League, the length and breadth of Ireland, across the UK and beyond, but Barry is our man.

"He knows Cliftonville, he knows the Irish League but, first and foremost, he knows how to set a team up to win and retain that winning mentality.

"His record in guiding Warrenpoint from the Mid-Ulster League to the Premiership in just four seasons is phenomenal - and to do it with the ball on the deck with high-energy performances is all the more impressive.

"Of course, one of Warrenpoint's major successes in their early days as an Irish League Club was an Irish Cup victory over ourselves in 2011 - and Barry has been on our radar ever since then.

"Naturally disappointed in defeat, we were nevertheless very impressed with how Barry conducted himself and guided his team, both tactically and verbally, over the course of both matches.

"Warrenpoint went on to achieve two further against-the-odds promotions in the seasons that followed and we believe he has demonstrated exactly the sort of leadership and knowledge required to take charge of Ireland's Oldest Football Club.

"I would like to welcome both Barry and his Assistant Harry Fay to Solitude, while extending a warm welcome back to Stephen Small as he assumes a coaching role on our senior staff.

"Though these appointments are all about the next big step in our future, it would be remiss of me not to extend sincere thanks to Tommy Breslin and Peter Murray for taking charge of the senior team for the season's closing weeks. We're grateful for everything they have done for the Club and I have no doubt they would like to offer their own best wishes to Barry Gray as we open the next chapter in the history of Cliftonville FC."