Call for change over early Irish League fixture demands by boss Barry Gray

Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray has called for increased consultation over kicking off the league season with such an intense fixture schedule.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 12:45 am

Having opened the Premiership last Saturday at home to Ballymena United, the Town then hit the road midweek and now host Glenavon for a third high-stakes test inside eight days across the first week of the campaign.

It’s a scenario Gray feels brings with it potential problems but suggests a simple solution available by switching games deeper down the line.

“Personally, I don’t like the way we start our season,” said Gray. “I think it adds to the pressure on the players and can be a risk due to the shift in intensity between pre-season and then two competitive fixtures so close together early on.

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Warrenpoint Town boss Barry Gray. Pic by Pacemaker.

“After our first game the ideal scenario would be to work with the group on everything ahead of the next match but there’s no option for that when next playing on Tuesday.

“It’s not about results, it’s about giving players time to build up match fitness and for managers to digest how things are shaping up.

“So I’d like to see the first midweek league games come up later in the calendar.

“I think it’s a tad unreasonable the way the schedule is and that’s always been my thinking.

“Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t like it but it’s something I’d love to see discussed within our game.

“I appreciate people have to sit down and map out a schedule and cannot say I know every reason behind the decision to have two games so close together early on.

“Maybe it’s to try and avoid problems down the line with bad weather?

“But it’s one certainly I think could be looked at or at least discussed.”

Gray’s players welcome Glenavon having made club history over the last appearance on home soil with a first-ever top-flight win on opening day - only to lose on Tuesday.

“We’ve had the highs and lows across this first week - some things we’ve seen as really pleasing, other things highlight what needs work,” said Gray. “Heading into this weekend, we face a Glenavon side who have strengthened with players of proven Irish League quality.

“We’ve made changes to our squad too but, ultimately, it’s never about what any of us have done on paper - it only ever comes down to what happens on the pitch.

“So we must look at everything from our own perspective and realise it has been very good and very average over the first two games.

“It’s about finding ways to try and continue to narrow the gap between us and clubs like Ballymena United and Glenavon.

“We just want to keep on making progress as a group.”

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