Legend Georgie McMullan hired to lift Cliftonville out of the doldrums
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Dungannon Swifts v Cliftonville (today, Stangmore Park, 3pm)
GEORGIE McMullan’s days of shopping in Ikea, Tescos and B&Q on Saturday afternoons are numbered after he agreed to join Gerard Lyttle’s backroom team at Cliftonville.
After 15 years at the Reds, McMullan retired at the end of last season but has been coaxed back to the club by Lyttle.
Regarded as one of the best-ever players to play for the north Belfast club and the beating heart of the back-to-back league winning sides in 2013 and 2014, McMullan had to reach a compromise with his wife Geraldine about becoming involved in the managerial set-up.
“I used to get up on a Saturday and have butterflies in my stomach all morning,” said the father-of-three. “Now, I get up and I do family stuff. You’re out shopping in town, you’re in Ikea, you’re in B&Q and Tescos – just normal stuff.
“On Saturdays I didn’t know what went on in the house until I stopped playing. It’s an eye-opener, I can tell you that.”
Although the Reds crashed out of the Irish Cup, there’s a major drive to secure European football at the club next season.
But performances have dipped in recent weeks.
After Cliftonville’s scoreless draw with Coleraine on February 25, Lyttle contacted McMullan about the possibility of him joining the backroom team.
McMullan initially turned down Lyttle’s offer but a second bid proved successful.
“I was a wee bit surprised about being asked,” said McMullan.
“‘Skin’ got in touch after the Coleraine game [0-0]. He just said he needed a bit of help and that he needed to change a few things and he said: ‘I think you’ll be ideal, the players will relate to you and I think you can give us a wee lift.’
“There was obviously a bit of to-ing and fro-ing at home. I’ve three kids and time is precious. Originally I turned him down, I just couldn’t commit to it.
“But I watched the Linfield match on Monday night [2-0 defeat] and ‘Skin’ got back onto me after that and asked me again.
“He asked me to come down one night a week and on a Saturday. So I’ve reached a compromise with my wife…”
McMullan insisted that his role wasn’t to put on “Mourinho training sessions” but rather to help motivate the players between now and the end of the season.
“I don’t really have any desire to be a coach. I’ve started my coaching badges; Ardoyne put me through them because I’m helping out with their kids’ teams, so I enjoyed that.
“But ‘Skin’ is not looking for me to come in and pull out Mourinho sessions – he wants me to work on the players and get a reaction out of them.”
The Reds have won just two out of their last seven league games and are in danger of losing third spot to Coleraine and Ballymena United.
“For me, I think the criticism that ‘Skin’ has got is unfair," said McMullan.
"He’s had a tough run of it – on the field, off the field, and the amount of injuries.
“To be fair to him, he’s 24/7, he is non-stop; he wants to get it right. Don’t me wrong, he’s made mistakes and he’ll probably make more mistakes but name a manager that hasn’t made a mistake.
“His work ethic is incredible. He’s the best man for the job and he’ll get it right.”
McMullan will be in the dug-out for this afternoon's trip to Dungannon, while Linfield could narrow the gap on leaders Crusaders to four points at home to Ards as the champions prepare for Monday night’s visit of Ballinamallard United.