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New Cliftonville manager Lyttle is doing a big job

By Scott Young

There has been much discussion about the new managers appointed at Linfield and Glentoran this season. With all the debate surrounding David Healy and Alan Kernaghan, what the other arrival on the management scene at the top end of the Irish League is doing has almost gone unnoticed.

It's about time, though, that Gerard Lyttle's work at Cliftonville was acknowledged and praised.

Since Tommy Breslin departed as boss in September, Gerard has been in charge on a caretaker and now full-time basis and the Reds have lost only one game.

That's some going.

From what I've heard behind the scenes, Gerard is a very good coach and is extremely knowledgeable about the game.

Going from coach to manager, however, is tough especially when you are taking over from a man like Tommy, who is Cliftonville's most successful boss of all time.

When Tommy left I thought Gerard would be offered the job because Cliftonville like to keep things in house. For instance, when Eddie Patterson left they appointed Tommy and look how well that turned out.

It is so far, so good with Gerard too. He has fitted in superbly to management.

When Cliftonville won back-to-back titles under Tommy, they were a joy to watch and increased attendances at Solitude with their brand of football.

From what I have seen this season, Gerard has tried to keep Cliftonville playing in an entertaining style.

I watched them a few weeks back and they played as well as they had done a couple of years ago when they were beating all before them.

Clearly Gerard took note of what worked under Tommy and has continued in that vein. In the background he will also be putting his own stamp on things.

For me his Cliftonville side are the only one in the Irish League that can give Crusaders a run for their money in the title race. The Reds are eight points behind Stephen Baxter's men but do have a game in hand.

Cliftonville's problem is that the Crues are excellent at grinding out results, which makes it hard to get close to them at the top.

If Cliftonville are to put pressure on at the summit, they will have to keep winning and hope that the Crues slip up at some stage.

While Reds fans and the rest of us think about that, from what I know of Gerard he will be focusing only on what his team are doing. It is obviously working.

You have to remember that over the past few seasons, Cliftonville have sold Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley, two outstanding Irish League players, yet they are still in the hunt for honours which is a compliment to Lyttle and his players.

Even when those two were at the club and scoring goals galore, other players like Stephen Garrett, George McMullan and Marty Donnelly would step up with important strikes.

It is something they have in their locker - an ability to score goals from all over the pitch. This season David McDaid, Jay Donnelly, Garrett and Chris Curran have been weighing in. I fancy Lyttle will add to his squad in January with that in mind.

He is going about his business in an impressive manner. It was a big job taking over from Tommy, but so far Gerard is delivering.

Belfast Telegraph

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