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Lyttle eyes a Cliftonville reunion with Gormley

By Graham Luney

Cliftonville are on a mission to bring Joe Gormley back to Solitude.

The striker's record-breaking goalscoring exploits earned him a move to Peterborough United in the summer of 2015 but his full-time career failed to take off and now clubs across the north and south of Ireland are scrambling for his signature.

But the 27-year-old will feel an emotional pull towards the north Belfast side that made him an Irish League great and Reds boss Gerard Lyttle says he's hopeful of a thrilling reunion.

"Joe Gormley is a Cliftonville great, a super lad and player," said Lyttle.

"I would love to bring him back to Cliftonville and we are very keen to achieve that. Hopefully we can get something sorted in the near future.

"I know a lot of clubs will be interested in signing Joe because of what he achieved in the past with Cliftonville, but I'd be very disappointed if he didn't come home to us and hopefully we are not too far away from that happening."

Lyttle continued: “I’ve worked with Joe for five years at the Reds and I’ve developed a close relationship with him. We are good friends and there's a lot of trust there. I’ve spoken to him as a friend and I’m gutted things have not worked out for him at Peterborough United.

“His experiences are very close to home for me as I know what it’s like to go across the water and how tough it is to make it in the professional game. I was at Celtic as a young player and can appreciate how difficult the challenge is for our players but the player’s happiness is everything and if they are not happy they cannot carry on.”

A serious knee injury disrupted Gormley’s progress at Peterborough and following a loan spell at Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone, the Ardoyne man has finally let go of his full-time dream.

Gormley cannot play for another club this season after featuring for Peterborough and St Johnstone.

Premiership champions Crusaders have been heavily linked with a swoop for Gormley but there is the added incentive of making more history with the Reds. Gormley sits fourth in the club’s all-time goal charts — 48 behind leader Kevin McGarry — and once he regains fitness it shouldn’t take him too long to hit top spot.

The striker, who formed a deadly partnership with Liam Boyce, made 183 appearances for Cliftonville scoring 122 goals, and his 41-strike tally is a club record for one season.

Trophies also accompanied the goals as Gormley netted a brace of Danske Bank Premiership crowns, three League Cup honours and two County Antrim Shield medals.

The boy who honed his finishing skills at Crumlin Star would be given a hero’s welcome by the Red Army but it will inevitably take him some time to regain his sharpness.

Cliftonville’s immediate priority is today’s Premiership clash at Carrick Rangers, the hosts still buzzing after reaching the League Cup decider in which they will face Ballymena United.

“Carrick are on a high at the minute and I watched their semi-final win over Glenavon and they deserved it,” added Lyttle.

“They were very well drilled and organised on the night and the better team. They have a bit of momentum and are fighting for points.”

The Reds will be without skipper Jason McGuinness, who must serve an automatic one-match ban following his dismissal for pushing his head against Portadown defender Gary Breen last weekend. McGuinness must also serve a six-match ban for the offence, ruling him out until the Cliftonville v Portadown game on January 28.

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