Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin has had one eye on the club’s long-term development from day one as manager.
McLaughlin stepped into the Solitude hot-seat in January and his impressive progress has left the Reds sitting second, just a single point behind Danske Bank Premiership leaders Coleraine.
Alongside the first-team focus, McLaughlin considers internal development key to club success.
“We are trying to progress on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis and the future of the club is definitely bright,” said McLaughlin following last weekend’s victory over Warrenpoint Town. “When I first came in probably confidence was down but the talent was always in place, with the players reaping the rewards from us just reminding them of that ability and how hard work will always pay off.
“With young players they are fearless so we have that in abundance, which is brilliant for the future but also the present.
“They go out with that freedom but then also have experienced players who take the pressure upon themselves.
“We’ve got one of the youngest squads in the league, players starting that career journey but also players with experience.
“We are on track - from the first week and those early sessions I could see the club is full of talent, not just in the first team but beyond.
“From the start we got the under 20s training alongside the firsts so we could keep an eye on the future of the club.
“That struck me more than anything else, the phenomenal work of the youth coaches towards that talent and today (v Warrenpoint Town) we had two 16 year olds on the substitutes’ bench.”
Injury-hit Ballymena head to Solitude aiming to reverse a run of six Premiership games without success.
“David Jeffrey is a winner and has been over his career so we expect a tough game,” said McLaughlin. “David demands a winning mentality across his squads so you can never write Ballymena off.
“They’ve got the ability to go on a run of wins no matter who they have available or unavailable so we will respect that challenge.”