Belfast Telegraph

Lyttle is hoping his Reds can hit the Euro jackpot

By Stuart McKinley

Gerard Lyttle has declared that it's all about the money as his Cliftonville team face Glentoran in the Irish League's first ever Europa League play-off final.

And with £160,000 of European money up for grabs, the Reds boss is adamant that having two or three weeks more of a break will be no consolation to the losers.

The difference between success and failure is a Europa League first qualifying round tie on June 30, with the £160,000 in the bank, or kicking-off the Danske Bank Premiership campaign five weeks later - and Lyttle knows which he would prefer.

"We have mapped out two plans for pre-season, one if we are in Europe and one if we're not. I really want to go with the first one. I don't want the extra time off," said the Reds boss.

"Having the European money would be a big help to the club and the board should be applauded for sticking to their guns and still trying to compete when we missed out on it last season.

"It is important for every club, it would help our budget and as a manager you want a decent budget to be able to strengthen the squad.

"It would dictate what players we can bring in and how much we can push next season.

"From a purely footballing point of view the players and myself want to be competing in Europe. You want to test yourself at the highest level possible and not everybody in the league is lucky enough to get to Europe."

The Reds finished fourth in the Premiership table, two places and 12 points above Glentoran. Previously that would have been enough to go straight into Europe, but the play-off system has given more teams the chance to take on continental opposition.

It will be a final with a difference - without a trophy to lift or the feeling of euphoria at winning silverware - but Lyttle believes there are still incentives aplenty.

"It's a one-off game, it has the feeling of a final about it. The players will be fired up and I just hope that we can play to our capabilities," said Lyttle.

"I don't think there is much need for motivation. There is a European spot at stake and if that doesn't motivate you what does?

"That's the trophy at the end of it.

"The finance for the club, which could have a significant impact on the future, the chance to represent the club in Europe and a the possibility of a game against a big club - there is so much to play for."

Glentoran manager Alan Kernaghan's ability to execute his plans to strengthen the squad will, to a large extent, be dictated by tonight's result too.

While Caoimhin Bonner and Levi Ives are suspended for the Reds, Kernaghan is hampered by the absence of four banned players in the shape of Calum Birney, Jonathan Smith, Chris Morrow and Marcus Kane.

Midfielder Fra McCaffrey will be missing too and the 23-year-old has also confirmed that he will be leaving the club.

Belfast Telegraph


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