McMullan ready to cheer on Reds from the stand
George McMullan will be a regular at Solitude next season - but will swap the white-hot action on the pitch for the relative comfort of viewing from the stands.
Following weeks of speculation over his future, Cliftonville's captain yesterday announced his decision to retire and his intention to snap up season tickets for sons Cillian and Ruari.
Daughter Nainsi is still a little too young to become a regular among the Reds support but there's little doubt that she, too, will become a familiar face around the club if her father has any say in the matter.
"Retirement had been at the back of my mind for a while but I was always going to put off any decision until the end of the season," said McMullan.
"We still had European football to play for and I didn't want any kind of distractions from that, so it was parked to one side and we just concentrated on making sure we qualified.
"Once we did that, I took a bit of time to think things over and I just feel the time's right to call it a day. It wasn't an easy decision to make because Cliftonville has been such a massive part of my life these last 15 years and I do feel like I could play on, but I know the time's right. I've got a young family and I'll have more time to spend with them now, although we'll still be at Solitude for every match."
The 34-year-old quits as the most decorated player in the Reds' history, with 103 goals to his name in 544 appearances since making his debut back in December 2001.
His services to the club were recognised with a testimonial match against a Celtic XI last month and boss Gerard Lyttle had hoped to convince his skipper to stay on, but must now set about the task of not only replacing McMullan's talent on the field but also identifying a suitable candidate for the vacated armband.
"I actually played the same night he made his debut, which shows how long he's been at Cliftonville," said Lyttle.
"He's been an absolute inspiration to everyone, reflected in the trophies he's collected and all the stand-out performances he's delivered over the years."
• DENVER Gage has returned for a third spell at Ballymena United.
The 29-year-old joins after helping Ards to the Championship 1 title and his arrival coincides with defender Johnny Taylor leaving the Sky Blues.