Belfast Telegraph

Gray unhappy as he fires hands-off warning over Hughes

By Stuart McKinley

Warrenpoint Town manager Barry Gray is adamant that striker Daniel Hughes will not be leaving the club.

And he has told Linfield that making a fresh bid for the player would be a waste of time after spelling out in no uncertain terms that he won't be sold.

Gray thought that speculation surrounding the 23-year-old had been put to bed when he signed a new two-year contract back in May.

The Blues, however, who were also keen on Hughes during the January transfer window, have renewed their interest, with an offer going in to Warrenpoint last weekend.

As far as Gray is concerned, though, there is no deal to be done.

"The official statement from the club is that Daniel Hughes is not for sale - end of," said Gray.

"He won't be going to Linfield or anyone else. Selling him is not on our spectrum.

"He is suspended for the first game against Ballinamallard, which takes the attention away from him because I would be lying if I said I thought what has gone on hasn't distracted him.

"I thought that all this had been done and dusted when he signed a new contract, but it kicked up again.

"It's not a great way to be preparing for the first game of the season and I'm not best pleased at how the scenario has panned out.

"I can say that Daniel Hughes is our player and he will still be our player on September 1."

Things could have been very different for Gray and his team as the first weekend of the new season approaches. Back in May they found themselves trailing Bangor 2-0 after the first leg of their promotion/relegation play off and managed to fight back before winning on penalties.

It is that kind of spirit that the man who doubles up as a club director as well as manager wants to see displayed in the new campaign, with sights set a bit higher this time.

"There is talk about us battling to avoid relegation again this season, but that's not coming from people connected with Warrenpoint Town," said Gray.

"We all know how difficult a league this is and maybe come May we will be in a similar position to where we have been in the last two seasons since we came up.

"The other side of that coin is that if you hit a run of form, three or four wins on the spin can see you jump a few places into mid-table and that's where we'll be looking at.

"I think re-signing the Hughes brothers, John McGuigan and Dermot McVeigh is a signal of what we want to do - now we have to go and prove on the pitch that we can achieve what we set out to."

Gray admits that his team can't yet be considered an established Premiership side, but hopes that isn't far away.

"Hopefully we can say that after three years," he said with a wry smile.

"The players who are still here are two years more experienced and that is invaluable.

"We've brought in experienced players like Shane Dolan, Mark Clarke and Matthew Rooney and Stephen Murray is ready for the step up to the Premiership."

Manager: Barry Gray

Captain: John Boyle

Key Man: Daniel Hughes

Big arrival: Stephen Murray

Big loss: No-one of importance

Last season: Eleventh in Premiership (won play-off against Bangor) and Irish Cup sixth round

Ins: Jordan Dane (PSNI), Shane Dolan (Ards), Stephen Murray (Armagh City), Mark Clarke (Ards), Nathan Murray (Dundalk), Matthew Rooney (Drogheda United)

Outs: Timmy Grant (Newry), Stephen McCabe (Newry)

Verdict: Another play-off (at best)

Belfast Telegraph


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