Barry Gray back at Warrenpoint Town but players his sole focus for vital visit to Carrick Rangers
Barry Gray is back in the Warrenpoint Town dugout but any success on Saturday will have little to do with his legacy.
The midweek dismissal of Stephen McDonnell led to Gray returning to the club he helped to steer into the Irish League’s senior stage from Mid-Ulster football.
Warrenpoint sit bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership following one win from 12.
Gray - who left as Warrenpoint boss in 2016 and went on to become Cliftonville manager - must now rebuild confidence within that same squad in pursuit of points at Carrick’s expense that would offer a rapid response to the managerial change.
With one team meeting in front of a panel of players of whom he has little personal experience, Gray is quick to highlight credit for any welcome win would go to those on the pitch rather than the sidelines.
“I’m not waltzing in with a magic wand,” said Gray in an interview with the Newry Reporter. “It’s a case of finding something that will suit this group of players better - confidence is very low at the minute.
“They’ve played 11 games where they’ve come out very heavily on the wrong side of results, so that’s not easy to take as players.
“Last night gave us a very brief opportunity to get together and now you’re into a must-win game.
“Just because I’m here doesn’t mean we’ll win tomorrow’s game
“I have had no impact with the players yet, so if we win tomorrow’s game it will be because of them and only them.
“We’ll set them up tomorrow and if it comes to three points then great, but it doesn’t, then it’s not the end of the world and I have to keep stressing that.
“Tomorrow’s game won’t be anything to do with tactics, to be brutally honest.
“What I’m looking for are 11 players on that field that will give me more than what I’ve seen from them so far.
“If we were to lose tomorrow, Carrick would be nine points ahead of us with a game in hand and, in my opinion, that would, given where we are at the minute, would pretty much rule us out of every getting out of the bottom two.
“We want to keep Carrick as close to us as possible to give us a chance - but it is only one game and it is only three points and our priority at the minute is getting off the bottom.
“We have an opportunity to do that tomorrow.
“The immediate target is to get somebody beneath us and then keep them there for a period of time and then we can start to look at who is sitting above us.”
Rangers boss Niall Currie is aware of the high stakes.
“First of all, let me wish Stephen McDonnell all the very best for the future,” said Currie in the aftermath of McDonnell’s exit and before Gray’s confirmation. “No doubt the players will be out to impress a new manager.
“I prefer to focus on our own gameplan and these fixtures have a huge significance in terms of our own league within a league.
“My boys will be well aware of the importance, it’s a 50-50 game but one we know we are capable of winning.
“We had a great result last weekend against Dungannon Swifts so the target is to go and record two wins in a row.”