Eddie Patterson has conceded the Carling Premiership title to Linfield — and the Cliftonville manager is also ruling out overhauling the Blues any time in the near future.
Solitude chief Patterson believes that without the opportunity to invest in his playing squad, the Reds will be massive underdogs as far as chasing the Gibson Cup is concerned for years to come.
Cliftonville are now the only team left that can stop David Jeffrey’s side from becoming champions for the fourth time in just five seasons, but that is very unlikely.
The Reds must win all three remaining games — which isn’t out of the question, even though one is away to Linfield next Tuesday. The Blues, however, must do no better than draw away to Crusaders tomorrow afternoon and at Portadown next weekend to open the door.
“How do we go about closing the gap on Linfield? That is never going to happen,” said Patterson.
“We simply don’t have the resources that other clubs, like Linfield, have available to them. It’s a fact of life and it’s a situation that I have no problem working in.
“We are depending on developing youngsters and that is going to take time to reap rewards — which we are confident it will do.
“Still, it won’t be for a while yet before we see the benefits.
“We can’t go out and buy players in, but we do have a few that are coming through.
“Fortunately or unfortunately we’ve been in the upper echelons of the league table and the timing hasn’t been right to bring some of the young players into the team, but those who have been given their chance have been well worth their opportunity.
“We took a few of them down to Sligo earlier in the season for a Se
tanta Cup match and they showed there that they have the ability to come through.”
One of those youngsters has, however, had a big impact this season.
Only four players in the league have scored more goals this season than Liam Boyce, but having already spent some time at Watford he might not be around long enough to be joined in the first-team by the likes of Mark Clarke, Jason Bannon, Mark Burns, Mark Patterson and Martin Jones on a regular basis.
A win over Dungannon Swifts tomorrow afternoon would at least guarantee the Reds a return to European football next season.
If Glentoran were to lose or draw against Portadown it would also clinch second place for Patterson’s men — and worst case scenario would be simply having to avoid defeat against the Glens next week to finish as runners-up.
“The security of the club in the long-term is vital and the financial rewards gained from playing in Europe would be very welcome,” said Patterson.
“It could go some way to dealing with a couple of players.”