Belfast Telegraph

Five things Paddy McLaughlin can do to get Cliftonville back on track

 

New challenge: Paddy McLaughlin has a number of issues to solve at Cliftonville
New challenge: Paddy McLaughlin has a number of issues to solve at Cliftonville

By Graham Luney

Paddy McLaughlin is the man Cliftonville have placed their faith in to revive the club's fortunes and it certainly can't be viewed as a surprise appointment following the impressive job he carried out at Institute.

McLaughlin was able to steer 'Stute into the top flight and, as remarkable as that achievement is, he now faces an even bigger challenge.

Here, we look at five things the new Reds boss must do to get the north Belfast club back on track:

1. Earn the respect of the players

It will be a refreshing change for the players to have a new voice in the dressing room and McLaughlin will be keen to assert his authority and lay out his expectations from day one.

Calling the players into training after his media commitments underlines his desire to get down to work and turn this ship around. It's often said that players shouldn't need any motivation to give their all but, without doubt, the best managers get the best out of their players.

McLaughlin has shown he can inspire men to greater heights. His passion for this new role will filter through to the players and now they must respond by producing performances that mirror that ambition.

While it's fair to assume that McLaughlin will not want Joe Gormley to leave the football club, a large number of Reds players must assume they are playing for their futures.

McLaughlin was certainly able to get the best out of striker Michael McCrudden, who has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Derry City, so Reds fans can expect Gormley's magic feet to keep delivering.

2. Sort out the leaking defence

Formerly a defender with Finn Harps, Derry City, Coleraine and Institute, McLaughlin should bring a fresh perspective to the art of defending.

Cliftonville's goalscoring prowess is well documented but there's little point in having the best striker in the Premiership if you leak goals. In 26 league games, they have conceded 49 goals - only Institute (54) have conceded more, with Warrenpoint Town coming in level.

A fair insight into what has gone wrong is a comparison with their north Belfast neighbours Crusaders. Both have scored the same number of goals, but the Reds have let in 12 more. And that's not simply a criticism of the defence - not enough protection is coming from midfield, and McLaughlin will need to address that weakness. The team needs to find a new steel and mental toughness.

3. Secure European football

With the trophies gone, it's vital the Reds qualify for the Europa League and pocket a cash windfall of around £220,000. That's huge money for an Irish League club and can make a significant difference with regard to investment in the squad.

At the moment the Reds sit in sixth place and the end of season play-offs for continental action leave qualification hopes on a knife-edge. Europa League qualification would provide a platform to start next season with real optimism.

4. Identify some fresh talent

A new manager means new players will come to the club and must strike up an understanding with team-mates. Fresh faces are needed to revive the club. The transfer window has closed but McLaughlin will already have identified players who can strengthen his hand. Joe Gorman, Aaron Harkin and Niall Grace on loan until the end of the season have arrived while Seanna Foster joins in the summer.

5. Make a change to the playing style

While three points at home to Newry City on Saturday is welcome, together with his assistant Brian Donaghey and coach Conleth McCrudden, McLaughlin will look to change his team's style.

At 'Stute, he earned respect for playing neat, attractive football where passing and movement were central to his philosophy and he will want to replicate that at Cliftonville where, he will argue, he has better players to carry out instructions. Players will understand the type of football he wants.

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