Eddie Patterson putting pride into Cliftonville
Eddie Patterson has one big regret when he looks back over his reign at Cliftonville so far.
It speaks volumes about the transformation he has overseen during his tenure at Solitude that, of the 20 European ties the Reds have contested in their long history, Patterson has been in charge for exactly half.
Not a bad record for a man who only celebrated five years in the job last Thursday, but he admits that a lack of silverware continues to frustrate him.
“First and foremost, Cliftonville is my club and it always has been,” he explains.
“I want our fans to be proud of the way we play and to know that, when they put on their scarf and head to the match, they're going to be entertained by their team.
“We've won two County Antrim Shields in my time here, but the major trophies have eluded us.”
His sides are famed for their free-flowing attacking football and Patterson has honed the reputation of a shrewd operator, whose pre-match planning leaves absolutely nothing to chance.
He will regularly study DVDs of opponents, is no stranger to watching matches from the stands — both for tactical reasons and through suspension, of course — and whose meticulous preparations include barricading a changing room door in Croatia so that HNK Cibalia officials could not shut off the temporary air conditioner he had fashioned using the cold showers.
He has led Cliftonville to record points totals, unheard of successes on the continental stage and a level of consistency never before produced in the club's history.
Statistically speaking, his worst season in charge was the 2008/09 campaign when the Reds won the Shield and reached the Irish Cup final, but finished sixth in the league. Many managers would give their right arm for such mediocrity.
It hasn't all been plain sailing, though. In March 2008, Patterson was contacted by the PSNI to advise that they had intercepted a package addressed to him — which contained a bullet and a threatening letter.
“Never in a million years did I expect anything like that,” he says.
“When you have the police at your door showing you how to conduct security checks on your own home and under your car, you really start to question things.
“Deep down, I knew that I wanted to carry on in the job, but I still wanted to hear the views of my wife (Deirdre) and kids (Mark and Lynsey) before reaching a decision. I couldn't help but think of the title of ex-Cliftonville manager Billy Sinclair's book — ‘Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down'.”
And, as he seeks to overtake Sinclair's seven-year record at the helm, Patterson — now a proud grandfather after daughter Lynsey gave birth to Cady in February 2009 — continues to take nothing for granted amid further raised expectations at Solitude following that Europa League triumph over Cibalia last month.
“Basically all a manager is ever trying to do is avoid being out of a job,” he says.
“I know I'll be in that position one day and it will be very sad for me when it happens. All I can do is try to stave it off for as long as possible. The only thing I'm guaranteed at Cliftonville is the sack.”
Even that would be in keeping with the nature of his tenure, for the Reds have never once sacked a manager in 131 years.