Belfast Telegraph

Nacho was a hero at Ibrox but Red Army won't be so welcoming, says Lyttle

By Graham Luney

Glentoran's big name signing Nacho Novo will experience his first taste of a hostile environment in the Danske Bank Premiership tomorrow night and Cliftonville boss Gerard Lyttle admits the Spaniard will have to endure a hot reception at Solitude.

Lyttle spent five years at Celtic competing for the youth and reserve teams and Novo, who won three league titles during a six-year spell at Rangers, wouldn't be considered one of his heroes.

The Red Army take huge pride in making life uncomfortable for visiting players and the 37-year-old will be confronted with some unique north Belfast banter.

Novo, who appeared in the 2008 Uefa Cup final defeat to Zenit St Petersburg and played in many Old Firm scraps, is no stranger to partisan atmospheres but he will be hit with some verbal abuse on his travels this season.

After a gentle introduction as a substitute in the 1-0 win at home to Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, Solitude will not be as welcoming for the man who left Ibrox in 2010.

"I might have had a poster of Nacho on my wall but only for throwing darts at!" joked Lyttle (below).

"It's great for the league when a high-profile player comes in but I saw some of the highlights from Glentoran's game at the weekend and it was all about Nacho.

"It could be a big distraction for the Glens as he is such a big name.

"I'm sure the Red Army will give him a warm welcome but players can expect a bit of stick.

"When big names come into our league like Keith Gillespie and now Nacho they are going to get plenty of attention and they should be used to it.

"In terms of what he brings to the Glentoran team I think he has still got it upstairs.

"The legs are perhaps not as quick as they used to be but he'll have a good football brain and when he's really fit he'll be more dangerous.

"It can take a few weeks to build up that match sharpness and he probably won't start the game against us but we will focus on the 11 Glentoran players that face us and the games against them at Solitude have been very tight."

While the Glens are going for back-to-back wins, Cliftonville could only manage a 2-2 draw against Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena and Lyttle felt his side weren't smart enough in their opening league clash.

It was always going to be a tough assignment against Niall Currie's newly promoted troops but the Reds were a little off colour.

"We weren't smart enough with regard to our work off the ball and use of possession," added Lyttle, whose side overcame the Glens in the European play-off final at the end of last season.

"We raised the bar with our performances in Europe but when the league started the mentality was not the same and that was disappointing, particularly when you want to start off with a victory.

"It's happened to us before against newly promoted teams such as Carrick Rangers and it's not a good time to face them.

"It was almost like we were going though the motions and when you do that in this league you will not win matches.

"We had the Glens watched on Saturday and it will be another tough game.

"Normally we do well against them at home and I'll be looking for a reaction from our boys.

"It's important we get that first win and then push on from there, and hopefully pick up some momentum."

Lyttle has a full squad to select from and may make one or two changes to his starting XI after the draw with Ards.

• Michael Smith has rejoined Larne after leaving Ballymena United.

Belfast Telegraph


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