Belfast Telegraph

Caldwell aims to reclaim spot in Cliftonville squad

By Conor McLaughlin

Ciaran Caldwell says Cliftonville's strength in depth can fuel their title defence ahead of this evening's encounter with Coleraine at Solitude (Sky Sports 2, 7.30pm).

Such are the abundance of options open to boss Tommy Breslin that Caldwell has yet to start a game this season following his return from suspension and know he may have to wait even longer before his next chance comes along.

"I played in both of the Champi-ons League games against Celtic and then had 80 minutes in a friendly against Queen's, but not much else since," he explains.

"I don't like sitting and watching and not having the chance to earn myself a place in the team no matter what I do in training, so it's good to have the suspension over and done with and it feels like my season's really only just starting."

Just as frustrating for the versatile Caldwell is that, while he's been kicking his heels in the stands, Cliftonville have welcomed five new signings who can all play in positions familiar to the 23-year-old.

First through the arrival door was former Portadown midfielder Joe McNeill, swiftly followed by Chris Curran from Ballinamallard United.

Attacker Martin Murray then touched down from Glentoran at the same time as Glenavon's ex-midfield talent Ciaran Doherty before central defender Paddy McNally arrived on loan from Celtic last week.

If Caldwell – an unused substitute in Friday's last-gasp defeat to Portadown – thought competition for places was tough before his ban, he knows he has work cut out even more now.

He explains: "It's hard not to get a bit concerned about where you stand, especially when you're not playing, but Tommy explained it perfectly to me when he said he doesn't want to build a team here, he wants to build a squad.

"That's been the secret behind Linfield's success over the years and we're trying to replicate that here. Obviously we're champions at the minute but we don't just want to settle for one title, we want to target another one and then another and another.

"You're never going to be able to do that with just 11 players, so it's important to have as strong a squad as possible and we've definitely added quality to ours over the last few months or so."

The Reds' perfect start to the new season had looked set to continue against the Ports on Friday evening, only for two visiting strikes in the last six minutes to turn the tie on its head and smash Cliftonville's 24-game domestic winning streak at Solitude.

They will look to commence another successful run at the first time of asking when Coleraine pitch up under the glare of the Sky Sports cameras in BT14 tonight – but Caldwell doesn't expect the Bannsiders to prove an easy touch.

"Oran Kearney's putting together a very good squad up there and the fact they're unbeaten tells you all you need to know about how tough it will be," he says.

"I know they haven't won a game yet either but I don't think they'll be worried about that. They know themselves that they're a quality side and if you're difficuult to beat – which they obviously are – then that's a start."

* AS part of Cliftonville's 'Code Red' package, all supporters aged 11 and under will be granted free admission to this evening's game when accompanied by a paying adult.

Belfast Telegraph


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