Self-belief is key to my growth at Cliftonville: Kris Lowe
Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Ballymena United v Cliftonville (tonight, Ballymena Showgrounds, 7.45pm)
A YEAR ago Kris Lowe was plucked from his home club Dungannon Swifts by Paddy McLaughlin. Over the past two seasons, the Cliftonville manager has proven to be one of the most astute operators in the transfer market.
There is evidence everywhere you look on the Reds team-sheet – but it’s doubtful McLaughlin completed a better bit of business than signing Lowe.
The versatile Omagh man’s performances this season have rarely dipped below eight-out-of-10. He's played right back, centre back and anywhere across the Cliftonville midfield.
Right now, the 26-year-old has found his home sitting in front of the back four, sliding passes left and right and breaking up opposition attacks.
His first 12 months at Solitude couldn’t have gone any better.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s league trip to Ballymena United, Lowe said: “I keep saying: so far, so good. I think my game has improved since I went to Cliftonville.
“My first challenge was to break into the starting XI and hopefully stay there. So far, I’ve managed to do that and the added bonus is we’re right in the hunt for trophies, we’re in a cup final [March 13 versus Coleraine] and we’re near the top of the league.”
Lowe produced another assured midfield performance in Tuesday night’s enthralling 2-2 draw with Linfield. The big step change for him has been believing in his own ability.
“I probably didn’t have that self-belief beforehand,” Lowe said.
“I was always in relegation battles [with Dungannon Swifts] and I was wondering could I be one of the better players in the league?
“The more I’ve played for Cliftonville, the more that belief is coming into me. I’ve more confidence through results and performances and the feedback from the fans. That’s important.
“At the same time, I feel grounded and there are always ways to improve. I’m working hard off the pitch as well. I’ve probably become a bit more professional.
“I’ve been going to the gym more to get stronger and fitter to try and keep my place in the team. I don’t want to be the weak link in the squad, so that’s all part of it as well.
“You only have to look at our bench against Linfield the other night – Joe Gormley, Paul O’Neill, Jamie Harney, big Coatesy – they’re all big parts of the squad.”
The Reds will contest next month’s League Cup final and although they’ve lost ground in the title race suffering recent home defeats to Crusaders and Glentoran, Lowe isn’t counting themselves out of the title race just yet.
Third-placed Cliftonville are five points off league leaders Linfield and four behind the Glens.
“We would have snapped your arm off for this position at the start of the season,” Lowe insisted.
“We’ve 14 games to go and we’re still in with a shout. We have to play Linfield again and Glentoran twice and I think there’ll be a lot of twists and turns over the next while.”