Cliftonville: Gray eager to get started at Solitude

New Cliftonville manager Barry Gray. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
New Cliftonville manager Barry Gray. Picture By: Arthur Allison.

Barry Gray is relishing his first match as Cliftonville manager as they face Ards in their opening Danske Bank Premiership fixture.

“I can’t wait for Saturday, I’m no different from any other manager at this stage,” he said.

“We have had a long pre-season but the players and management staff feel ready for the challenges ahead.

“We are looking forward to it and it is a big challenge personally. I’m buzzing to get started and hopefully we can get our first win on the board this Saturday.”

The fixture will also mark the return of Joe Gormley, and Gray has been impressed with the striker’s attitude during pre-season.

“Some managers would panic about coming in and working with Joe but as a player and a person he is a dream to work with,” Gray revealed.

“The only criticism I can give is that he is massively hard on himself. He is looking to come back after a serious injury and be better than he was before.

“We have had to work with him in terms of managing his expectations, but the last few weeks he has really turned a corner for us. He is looking like the Joe Gormley we have to come to expect.”

Gray – who revealed Ruairi Harkin will return to training in the next two weeks – is expecting a difficult start to the new season as they face Coleraine in midweek.

“It is a tricky game no matter who you play in the first game,” Gray added.

“For me the importance was that we were at home first and away to Coleraine at any time of the season is a difficult game.

“In the early parts of the season these games are about looking after yourself and doing what you should be doing.”

“Having a tough start is nearly a good thing but we are solely concentrated on Ards this weekend.”

Following a disappointing end to last season Gray wants his players to ‘turn a few heads’ and bring success back to Solitude.

He added: “I have only worked with our squad for seven weeks but if we are able to continue our good work in pre-season into the season we might be able to turn a few heads.