Belfast Telegraph

My family inspired me to take Reds reins, says Gray

 

By Graham Luney

Barry Gray has thanked his family for giving him the support he needed to return to management with Cliftonville.

The former Warrenpoint Town boss was unveiled as the Reds' new manager at Solitude last night and he's fired up to return to the dugout after serving a spell as Director of Football at Milltown.

Gray stepped down as Town boss in November 2016 and passed the baton on to Matthew Tipton, but now the 37-year-old is ready to step back into the spotlight.

Cliftonville, who were unable to secure European funds and finished fifth in the Danske Bank Premiership, are hungry to win trophies again and the challenge the lifelong Liverpool fan faces is a huge one, but the backing of his family, including wife Caoimhe, was instrumental in his decision to embrace the challenge.

"I'm a family man, I live in Burren just outside Newry," said Gray, who succeeds Gerard Lyttle in the Solitude hotseat. "I have a wife, Caoimhe, two young kids, Noah and Ella aged five and three, and they are very much the be all and end all for me.

"My involvement in football is not a financially motivated scenario, I choose to do that and I choose to do it with the support of my family. The support that I have got from my wife and children since being out of football in management terms has been really good and since this job has come up, my wife's support has been solid and she realised it was an exciting opportunity for me.

"That helps me because you are going into a massive commitment. You spend a lot of time away from home in jobs like this and a lot of routine away from home, particularly when it's not on your doorstep, so having that support at home made this decision easy for me.

"I have two businesses, one in Newry and one in Warrenpoint, and have done for 10 to 12 years. My own trade is architectural based and I've a practice in Newry as well as a day care nursery in Warrenpoint.

"The big factor for me in this decision to manage Cliftonville was would it impact on my family because they were so used to having me back home. It is a very time consuming job, you have three nights with a team every week, then your full Saturday so it's really a six-day job and you have to deal with the board, the press, players and coaches and development teams.

"I have the luxury of having flexibility within my own employment, given that I work for myself so I can balance the commitments. I can allocate the time that I need to to the businesses and that won't have a negative impact on this job, so there are no concerns there."

During a glorious 10-year reign at Warrenpoint, Gray guided the club from the Mid-Ulster League to Northern Ireland's top flight and one of his memorable successes was a shock Irish Cup victory in 2011 when the Reds lost a penalty shoot-out at Solitude in the fifth round.

Gray and Warrenpoint were devastated when a controversial refereeing decision contributed to the club's relegation from the Premiership in 2016 but not even that savage blow could shake his desire to return to management.

"When I stepped away from management, I felt I would deal with that change easier," he said. "It was a welcome break and initially it was for the first few months to spend time with the family and not be in that routine with the associated hassle.

"Football turned into a luxury for me, a leisure pursuit rather than a job scenario. But as time goes on and you see Warrenpoint winning the title and (Mid-Ulster) Cup and I was standing outside as a supporter or member of the board but thinking was this really for me?

"While I have spent a lot of time in management, I am still a relatively young manager and there is always the risk that if you stay away from the game too long you become detached from the management side.

"This opportunity has come quicker than I imagined, for example I didn't see this happening at Christmas or two months ago because I wasn't looking for it but the timing seems right now."

Gray is also looking forward to working with goal machine Joe Gormley, who has returned to Solitude after a unsuccessful spell at Peterborough United.

"There isn't a manager in the country who wouldn't cut his arm off to have a striker of that calibre so I'm blessed to be working with this panel and a new striker like that," said Gray, whose assistant will be Harry Fay while Stephen Small is coach.

"That deal has been done and I don't have to worry about that.

"He's been training with the boys and I'm told he's chomping at the bit to get back to proper action again.

"Joe is a massive player with massive ability and he's tried and tested and proven at this level."

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