Barry Gray admits a momentary lapse or two when studying the Danske Bank Premiership fixture list before snapping back into focus on Cliftonville’s future.
His appointment as Cliftonville manager proved not only a break from tradition by the Solitude officials to go outside the in-house links which served the club so well in the modern era, it handed Gray an opportunity to establish his credentials beyond the home comforts established across a decade-plus connection to Warrenpoint Town.
Pre-season work will offer an early insight into the potential of the fledgling partnership but Gray admits the real test does not come until that first whistle of the first match as Cliftonville boss with Irish League points at stake.
“I was marking out the fixtures with my highlighter and came close a few times to covering Warrenpoint Town’s fixtures,” said Gray, who handed over the management role at Warrenpoint last season to Matthew Tipton. “I can understand the interest in that October game between the clubs but, really, it is not about Barry Gray, it is about Cliftonville.
“There will be talk leading up to that game of course but my focus is only on Cliftonville and it has been great the past few weeks since taking over using the time to get to know everyone around the club, not just the players.
“It is nice to have a game at home as the first match, with a visit to Coleraine after the Ards fixture then off to Ballinamallard.
“The initial reaction has been positive but I accept I will be judged by everyone on that first league game and we cannot really afford too much of a bedding-in period.
“But that is the job and now we have the fixtures in place it is becoming more of a reality that I am Cliftonville manager as we start our work towards the opening league game.
“There is an adjustment period which any manager would face coming to a new club but it is about getting across your ideas and getting everything in place.”