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McLaughlin and Reds a winning combination, maintains old boy Scannell

Ronan Scannell

Former Cliftonville favourite Ronan Scannell says he's not surprised Paddy McLaughlin has got the Reds flying.

McLaughlin succeeded Barry Gray just over a year ago and has already bagged his first piece of silverware after that dramatic County Antrim Shield final triumph over Ballymena United.

But of much more significance than a knockout success, Cliftonville have emerged as a powerful Premiership force and their impressive consistency is keeping them in the title hunt.

It's a thrilling race for the Gibson Cup with only four points separating the top five and the north Belfast side are in fifth position, just four adrift of leaders Linfield.

Scannell scored 26 goals and made 524 appearances for Cliftonville after making his debut in 1998 and helped the club celebrate back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.

And the former left-back feels the Solitude men are now packing a punch under McLaughlin.

"The league is unbelievable this year and fascinating to watch as an outsider," said Scannell.

"I've been to a few Cliftonville matches and still love to go to the Boxing Day games, although I didn't make it this year.

"The players have belief but you always get a blip.

"As long as Joe (Gormley) keeps firing and they keep clean sheets, they have a chance.

"I spoke to Paddy at Ryan Catney's testimonial and even from that short conversation I could see his determination to fix things.

"He has a vision for the future and I went away thinking this guy knows what he's doing and the Reds will do very well.

"He is proving me and himself right."

The Reds are also still in the Irish Cup and 40-year-old Scannell doesn't need reminded of the club's agonising wait for success in the domestic game's top knockout competition.

"I was born a few weeks before the Reds last won the Irish Cup!" he added.

"It's been so long, you can never say it's Cliftonville's year.

"Their Irish Cup record is getting ridiculous but any team can win it.

"You just hope that if the boys get to the final they can play without fear or pressure."

The Reds take on Dungannon Swifts at Solitude this afternoon.

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