Lyttle excited by challenge of managing Cliftonville

Cliftonville's caretaker coach Gerard Lyttle with Conor Devlin, whom he hails as "the best goalkeeper in the Irish League"

IF you want something done, ask a busy person. Gerard Lyttle already has a couple of jobs, but he’s keen to turn the role of caretaker Cliftonville manager into a permanent one.

First team coach `Skin’ has stepped into the breach after the midweek resignation of Tommy Breslin and has confirmed he wants to step up as full-time successor to the man who brought back-to-back League titles to Solitude.

“Definitely, yes. Anyone that knows me, it’s something that I’ve been working towards for a long time. I’ve been educating myself for the last six years in terms of doing my coaching badges and visiting clubs in England, stuff like that.

“It’s something that I was always planning for in the future. It has come a bit quicker than I expected, but you know what they say, `Grab your opportunity’ - and I intend to do that.”

The 37-year-old doesn’t do spare time, saying: “I’m a coach in the mornings at Belfast Met, a full-time football academy, I have my own business, the pizza shop `Lyttle Italy’, and my wife has her business, `FeMale’ hair salon. My wife’s very supportive and helps out as best she can.”

Both of those businesses are on Belfast’s Antrim Road, not far from Solitude, which helps a little, but already Lyttle has felt the increased demands on him in his new position:

“It’s a huge difference. Anyone who says that managing in the Irish League is part-time, it’s not, it’s a full-time job. It’s constant, talking to guys like yourself, players, your chairman, always thinking ahead and planning.

“Obviously it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, it excites me. I’ve always played and been involved football, it’s all I know. It’s been good, enjoyable, I relish the challenge.”

His burden will ease somewhat today when Mal Donaghy joins him on the Solitude sideline, more than 13 years after having been assistant manager under Laurence Stitt. Work commitments meant Donaghy was unable to help at Thursday night training, Lyttle explains: “It’s been just myself and Ricky McCann our strength and conditioning/ sports science coach, he’s been a great help, he works with the Northern Ireland senior squad.”

Of course, the upheaval isn’t as great as it might have been, given Gerard’s influence on moulding the Reds in recent seasons:

“That’s something Tommy let me do when I came in four years ago. At my first match I said to him `I’m a coach that likes to play football, with a good tempo’ and you saw that with the way we played. But I like to mix things up, we won’t stick to one formation but look at it game by game, trying to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses.”

Lyttle expects a positive reaction this afternoon at home to Glentoran after last Saturday’s freak 6-1 defeat at Ballymena:

“The players have been fantastic, the support I’ve had from them, training this week has been top drawer.

“I know the players inside out, I know what they’re capable of, we have a very talented bunch of players.”

A prime example is goalkeeper Conor Devlin, whom Lyttle confirmed would be in his side to take on the team managed by former Reds boss Eddie Patterson. That’s no secret, as last weekend’s red card rules out Peter Burke, although Lyttle acknowledges that particular cloud has a silver lining:

“Peter Burke has been very good in nets, it wouldn’t have been right to drop him. But in my opinion we have the best goalkeeper in the league sitting ready to go, that’s a huge confidence boost for me and the club. I’m excited about having Conor back and excited about the challenges ahead of us.”

As usual for Gerard Lyttle, it’s time to go to work.


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