Football/Soccer

Jonny Addis loving life at Cliftonville

Cliftonville Jonny Addis has made a brilliant impact since signing for the club

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Ballymena United v Cliftonville (Ballymena Showgrounds, 3pm)

JONNY Addis has hailed the possession style of Cliftonville’s football as one of the key reasons why he signed for the north Belfast men ahead of returning to former club Ballymena United this afternoon.

The ball-playing central defender, signed from the Braidmen in the summer, has been a revelation at Solitude with his passing ability bringing a new dimension to Paddy McLaughlin’s team.

Similar to the back pass rule to the goalkeeper, introduced in 1992, there has been a steep up-skilling of defenders over the last number of years where simply stopping the opposition is only one aspect of their job title.

Playing as a left-sided central defender, Addis’s passing out of the Reds defence has been one of the glowing features of their unbeaten start to the season.

The former Ballymena and Glentoran man said: “I’ve always regarded myself as that kind of player – I’m not saying I’m the best player in the world – but passing has been one of my strengths, probably more so than the other end of that scale.

“I’m not stupid enough to think I don’t have to defend, it’s not about prancing about and passing the ball at the back. First and foremost, you’re there to defend and keep clean sheets but the style of play is drilled into you and the way we’re going to go forward.

“I think if you have midfield players that can get on the ball, like we have, if you don’t have defenders to give it to them, then that style of play will fall by the wayside. If you’re trying to implement that style of play you’ve got to have players comfortable on the ball.”

A decade or so ago, Addis’s skills set mightn’t have been as valued as it is in the modern game – and he’s happy his new manager trusts his defenders to initiate attacks.

“Whenever Ballymena announced that I was leaving [last June] Paddy phoned me a day or two later and things progressed from there. It was a no-brainer, to be honest. Paddy talked about where he wanted the club to go, the style of play, the size of the club and all that made it easier as to where my future lay. I didn’t have to think too long about it.”

“There is an element of risk with our style of play,” he added. “The easy thing to do is push everybody up to the halfway line, knock it long and play for second balls.

“But we’ve got players that can play different roles and it makes the system fluid. We’ve changed the system at different times in games if we’ve been under pressure, we’ve been able to adapt. Kris Lowe, for instance, has played centre half, right back, central midfield. Chris Curran has done similar...”

Last season, Addis had no intention of leaving the Braidmen but with some doubts expressed to him regarding a few niggly injuries his contract was allowed to run down.

“They wanted me to get a scan but it was June and the clock was ticking but we couldn’t agree on the best way forward,” Addis explained. “There was no bad blood or anything, it was just the way it was.”

The 28-year-old has no qualms with playing against his former club this afternoon and says all he’s focused on is keeping Cliftonville’s unbeaten run going.

“You’re conscious of it when you back to play against a club you played for, but I certainly wouldn’t anticipate much of a reaction either way. Whatever happens, happens. It’ll not be something that’ll affect me.”

With Linfield not playing until Monday night, against Larne, a Cliftonville win today would put them five clear of the champions. Elsewhere, fourth-placed Coleraine would hope to make ground at home to Warrenpoint while Glentoran hope to move up the table with a home win over Portadown.

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Football/Soccer