Cliftonville boss Barry Gray survives the chop - and is confident of turning the corner
CLIFTONVILLE’S under-fire manager Barry Gray has thanked the Reds board and the countless messages he received from supporters for their unstinting support in the face of a barrage of criticism that put his job in serious doubt.
However, after meeting with club officials last night, Gray was given their support to continue as manager.
Many observers felt Gray would be sacked this week after losing four league games on the trot and crashing out of the Irish Cup last Saturday to Dungannon Swifts.
A sizeable number of Reds fans voiced their disapproval at the final whistle of the cup exit, chanting “out, out, out” – but Gray lives to fight another day and is confident of turning the team’s fortunes around.
Speaking exclusively to The Irish News after last night’s training session at Solitude, Gray revealed: “After last Saturday my initial reaction was that I didn’t need this in my life. I didn’t need it in my personal life.
“Some of the supporters needed to be in my house and with my family over Christmas after the results we had and they would understand how much of an impact the last four or five games have had.
“And I’m sure the players were the same.”
Gray re-iterated the point that he understood and accepted the criticism that rained down on him and his players after last Saturday’s 1-0 cup loss – but was overwhelmed by the messages of support he’s received since the devastating defeat.
Gray, who is preparing his side for Saturday’s league game against Ards, said: “I think the board deserve huge credit because it would have been very easy for them to say: ‘Enough is enough here. We’ll call it a day.’ But they didn’t do that.
“Listen, the one thing is this: everybody wants to see Cliftonville win. The only way to keep everybody happy is to win every week.
“Now, it’s unrealistic to say you’re going to win 30 games in a row. That’s madness. What I’m saying is, I’m honest and I’ll always be honest.
“We can go on about all the negatives and talk about the fans that booed – and, to be fair, we have given them plenty of reasons to react the way that they did – but I have received so many messages of support and they understand the job.
“While they’re frustrated, they have provided tremendous support for me.”
Despite sitting in sixth place and 12 points off third place (European qualification play-off spot), Gray is adamant Cliftonville’s season is far from over.
“I’m not blaming the supporters who voiced their disapproval. But do they want a manager who is going to roll over every time there is an obstacle? While we are where we are this season qualifying for Europe is still achievable.”
He added: “If I didn’t have confidence in myself, I wouldn’t be here.
“I tell the players to have confidence in their ability and to realise that they are good at what they do. I’m no different. Every time there is a blip, it’s like a punch in the ribs. I’m not saying I’m the world’s best but I’ll make sure it works for this team.
“That’s the message that I want to send out: those who have Cliftonville in their blood – get behind the team, not Barry Gray, but get behind Cliftonville because the closer we all are – good, bad or indifferent – the stronger and the quicker we get back on the road.”