Belfast Telegraph

Gormley will spark the Reds back into life, says pal Liam

By Steven Beacom

Liam Boyce is convinced Joe Gormley's return to the Cliftonville attack will provide a much needed boost to his old club and new Reds boss Barry Gray next season.

The Solitude outfit finished a troubled campaign on Monday when they lost 5-3 at home to Glenavon in the semi-finals of the Europa League play-offs. This followed manager Gerard Lyttle leaving for League of Ireland outfit Sligo Rovers during a first trophyless season for five years.

A bright spot came in January when Gormley, affectionately known by fans as 'Joe the Goal', signed a pre-contract agreement to return to Cliftonville on a three-year deal. Former Warrenpoint Town boss Gray, appointed on Wednesday, will relish working with him.

The brilliant Boyce and prolific Gormley tormented Irish League defences as the Reds won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014 before the former moved to Ross County.

Gormley, after netting 122 times in 183 appearances for the north Belfast men, joined Peterborough in 2015 but suffered a serious knee injury three months later which kept him out for a season.

He tried to resurrect his full-time career with a loan move to St Johnstone but after just one start in Scotland opted to return home to Belfast, where he joined Cliftonville despite interest from Crusaders and Linfield.

He could not play for the Reds in the season just finished because he had already featured for Peterborough and St Johnstone, but Cliftonville fans hope he will be raring to go next term even if some opposition supporters are questioning whether he will be the same player after his cruciate ligament injury.

Boyce is sure that his former team-mate will deliver the goods if presented with the opportunities.

"Cliftonville will see this season as disappointing but with Joe coming back that will be a big boost for the club and the new manager when next season begins," said Boyce.

"After what he has been through with his injury, it is important for him to be back home and enjoying his football once again.

"There will be a lot of focus on Joe but once he gets his first goal all the pressure will be off and you will see him score lots of goals again.

"He is a natural goalscorer and once a chance comes his way I know he will take it. People may be asking if he will be the same player but to me it's more about if the same chances will be created for him as was the case first time around.

"If the opportunities come he will score goals, there is no doubt about that."

The Northern Ireland striker also keeps a close eye on the Irish League in general and believes the talent is there for others to do what he did and successfully make the leap from local football to the professional arena.

He said: "I think there are some really good Irish League players who could make it across the water like Chris Curran at Cliftonville, Gavin Whyte at Crusaders and Paul Smyth at Linfield.

"I watch the highlights every week and you just need someone across the water to take a chance on players like them because in my opinion they have the ability."

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