Belfast Telegraph

Lyttle sure his year of change will soon start to bear fruit

By Conor McLaughlin

Gerard Lyttle believes Cliftonville are heading in the right direction under his guidance but admits there is plenty of work still to be done.

Yesterday marked a year since 'Skin' assumed the reins in the wake of Tommy Breslin's shock resignation and Lyttle says that the rebuilding process at Solitude will take time, although he has confidence in the ability of the players at his disposal.

Nine key members of the squad which won back-to-back Danske Bank Premiership titles in 2013 and 2014 are no longer on the scene and, having signed seven of the current panel during his own tenure, Lyttle is determined to see the job through to its successful conclusion.

"We've changed a lot of things on and off the field, probably more than people realise, and we're working towards a stage where we'll start seeing that paying off for us," he explains.

"The Irish League might only be part-time but the manager's job certainly isn't and, in truth, I don't think a player's should be either. Even if you only train two or three nights a week, you need to be professional in everything you do and that's what we're working towards.

"Since Tommy stepped down, that's been my target. I've wanted to instil that kind of mindset into everyone at this club from the oldest, most experienced players to the kids that are starting to come through.

"Once we have everybody tuned in, all working together and being as professional as we possibly can in every aspect of our preparation, then we'll start edging back to the level this club should be at."

Over the last 12 months, Cliftonville have won the League Cup for an unprecedented fourth consecutive season, achieved new milestones in European competition and recently broke the club's record scoreline with an 11-1 hammering of Lisburn Distillery - but Lyttle knows it's the bread and butter of the Premiership where he and his players will be judged.

"When you look at it on paper like that, we've done okay but Cliftonville should be about more than just 'okay'," he says.

"We did very well in Europe but, domestically, we've not produced yet. If you look at our squad, we have a lot of good ball players, a lot of pace in key areas and a number of young players who already have a few years of experience under their belts."

Cliftonville's bid to bounce back from last week's defeat to Ballymena United - their third loss from six league outings this term - sees them host an in-form Coleraine at Solitude tomorrow.

The Bannsiders have won their last four matches in all competitions and boast an admirable record against the Reds, but Lyttle is hopeful of having a number of injured stars back in the mix.

"The signings we made this summer were all about improving areas that we've struggled in but we've had all sorts of injuries," he says.

"It happens to every club but I would be very excited about seeing us when we have everyone fit and available to play. We identified problem areas and targeted players to help combat our weaknesses, but we've been unlucky to have so many of them out."

Asked to sum-up his year in the hot-seat, Lyttle says: "We're getting there. It was always going to take time but we've addressed certain issues and there comes a stage when you have to kick on, set your sights high and really show what you're about."

Belfast Telegraph


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