Cliftonville legend Marty Quinn believes the Reds have what it takes to win the Danske Bank Premiership season.
The former Solitude boss transformed the serial relegation battlers into league champions in 1998.
Although Linfield and Glentoran are fighting it out at the top of the table, Paddy McLaughlin’s men are lurking menacingly in third spot, just five points behind leaders Linfield.
There’s a lot of football still to be played before medals are handed out and Quinn, who made 286 appearances across seven seasons as a player with Cliftonville, feels the north Belfast warriors have a realistic shot at title glory.
“To be in this position at this stage of the season is fantastic and Paddy would have bitten your arm off for that,” said Quinn who succeeded Frankie Parkes as boss in October 1994.
“If you’re around the top of the table in January you have a real chance.
“You look at Linfield, Glentoran and Larne and they have full-time squads but the Reds are in there with them and it’s down to quality players and they are all singing off the same hymnsheet.
“They are working hard for each other and there seems to be a great togetherness which you need.
“I found in 1998 when we won the league that when the lads get on well together it’s a big bonus and credit to Paddy for strengthening the squad with players who weren’t always getting a run of games at other clubs.
“Cliftonville are serious challengers, the standard of their football tells you that. They are composed, play a modern game, passing from the back and their strikers are dangerous.
“I’ve enjoyed going down to Solitude and enjoy the craic. I’ve a lot of respect for this side and their home form has been incredible. You will get hard games but Cliftonville have been playing a good brand of football and they can grind out results when required.
“Hopefully, the Reds can maintain the same high standards.”
The former no nonsense defender has been particularly impressed with the form of former Ballymena United ace Jonny Addis.
“They have a great panel of players and Paddy has added real quality,” added Quinn. “You have players like Jonny Addis who has been absolutely outstanding. He’s been the best centre-back I have seen in the Irish League since Gareth McAuley and that’s a big compliment for him.”
Larne, meanwhile, have announced that Nick Aretzis has become the latest Academy player to sign a professional contract with the club.