Cliftonville boss Breslin praises hot-shot Liam Boyce following hat-trick heroics for Ross County

Former Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce
Former Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce

Cliftonville boss Tommy Breslin admits it is no surprise to see Liam Boyce blasting onto the Scottish Premiership scene with Ross County.

Boyce left Solitude last summer to sign a one-year deal with the Staggies as he looked to forge a career in full-time football across the water.

The 24-year-old endured a frustrating start in Scotland, but after losing two stone he has started to weigh in with the goals.

On Monday night he bagged a hat-trick in a 3-0 win against St Mirren, a result that boosted Ross County’s survival hopes in the top flight.

It wasn’t that long ago that Boyce was starring for Cliftonville as the Solitude outfit claimed back-to-back titles for the first time in the club’s history.

The Northern Ireland international enjoyed a formidable partnership with Joe Gormley as the Reds dominated the Irish League scene.

And Cliftonville chief Breslin believes Boyce can go on to enjoy a distinguished career in Scotland.

“I am delighted for Liam. It is fantastic to see him do well recently,” Breslin said.

“It takes time to settle into a new club, especially when you are leaving home. You have a new club, a new house and new friends and it is a big step.

“You don’t just hit the ground running, and it has taken Liam time to get up to full speed.

“But you can see how committed he is. He has lost a lot of weight and he is determined to do well.

“He was always a quality footballer, and Ross County are starting to see that now.”

Breslin admits he would love to have Boyce back at Solitude.

The outgoing champions have claimed two trophies in his absence this season – the League Cup and County Antrim Shield – but saw their hopes of another title falter in the second half of the campaign.

“I would love to have Liam back at the club – what club wouldn’t want him?” Breslin added. “But he is doing fantastically well in Scotland, and I hope he can continue scoring the goals and impressing.

“Joe Gormley has also done remarkably well. We have endured a bit of a frustrating season where we never seemed to get started.

“But all credit to Joe, he has worked hard and he has been a constant threat for us, scoring 39 goals along the way.

“Maybe if Liam had stayed we could have won the title – they would have scored some goals.”

Cliftonville are gearing up for Saturday’s make-or-break clash with Linfield.

The Reds sit outside of the European qualification places with just two games remaining, and defeat on Saturday will put hopes of reaching the Europa League preliminaries out of reach.

“It is a massive game for us, and one we need to win,” Breslin added.

“If we lose then we won’t be able to finish in the top three. Glenavon and Portadown are above us and going for it too.

“So we have to go out and give it everything.

“Even if we do win, it will still be out of our hands in the final game of the season.”