Newrycityafc.co.uk recently caught up with the club’s assistant manager Ray Byrne.
Ray made his debut for the Newry Town first team way back in the 1987/1988 season as a fresh faced 18 year old. His performances caught the eye of English First Division club Nottingham Forest, and in February 1991 they paid Newry £35, 000 for his services. He spent just over two seasons with the Forest Reserve team before a brief stint at Northampton Town. He then returned to Ireland, and after short spells at Shelbourne and again at Newry, he eventually signed with Irish League side Portadown in the summer of 1995, where he won the League Title and played in two Irish Cup finals. After six years at Shamrock Park he re-signed with Newry , where he played for three seasons until he was forced to retire from the game a due to a long term knee injury. Ray has since coached at the club from underage level right through to the senior team.
Read our interview with Ray below…
Are you enjoying working alongside Darren and the rest of the coaching staff?
Yes, it’s been fantastic working alongside Darren, Mickey and Jervis – The four of us have worked really well together. There’s a really strong unity between the coaching staff at the club. Darren has allowed all three of us to have an input, which is good because all of us bring different qualities and skills to the club.
Where do you see us finishing in the league this season?
Our main objective this year is to get promotion. We’re sitting in a good position but we know there’s still a lot of hard work to be done. Nothing is ever won at this point in the season so we’re just taking one game at a time. Success never comes without hard work, commitment and showing the correct attitude, which Darren is instilling in the players on a weekly basis.
Destination Newry recently screened our home match with Lurgan Town. What are your thoughts on our home games being recorded?
From a coaching perspective it’s very beneficial to us and again I’d like to say a big thank you to the folks at Destination Newry for making it possible. It’s great for analysing the team’s performances, shape and formation – particularly from a defensive point of view.
What are your hopes for the future at Newry?
It’s vital the club continues to grow and evolve on and off the pitch. Darren, myself and the rest of the coaching staff will do our best to achieve success for the club on the pitch and hopefully the rest will fall into place. Also, I’ve been really pleased with the large attendances at the home games this season; the people of Newry have really got behind us. Hopefully this will continue for the rest of the season and beyond.
What is your first memory at Newry?
That would be around the 1986/87 season when I watched Newry in an Irish Cup semi-final replay against Linfield at Windsor Park. Unfortunately Newry lost the match 2-1. The club has never reached the final of an Irish Cup but hopefully that’s something we’ll be aiming for in the coming years.
What is your best memory at Newry?
This would have to be when I first broke into the first team. I had come through the ranks at Newry and broke into the first team when I was 18. We ended up fourth in the league that year and narrowly lost out on European qualification. They were exciting times for myself and the club.
And your worst memory at Newry?
From a personal point of view this would be when a serious knee injury ended my playing career. I was 33 at the time and had been out for about a year. I came back and played three reserve games but it was clear that it hadn’t fully recovered and after a chat with my consultant we agreed that it was time for me to hang up the boots.
Who is the best player you played alongside at Newry?
I was fortunate enough to have played alongside a lot of good players at Newry. The likes of Paddy Lundy, Tommy Gray, Robbie Casey, Lee Anderson and Larry Griffin spring to mind but without a doubt the best player I played with at Newry was Ollie Ralph. I played alongside Ollie in my early playing days at the Town, he was great with myself and the rest of the younger lads. Ollie made it so easy for players around him with his pace and natural ability to read the game. It would be hard to see a player in the whole history of Newry who would come close to what Ollie has achieved at the club.
What is the most memorable moment in your career?
I was lucky enough to have a few memorable moments in my playing days. Getting transferred to Nottingham Forest when I was at Newry was a proud moment for me, playing in Europe and getting to two Irish Cup finals with Portadown was a great experience but without doubt the most memorable moment of my career was winning the Irish League title with Portadown.
In his autobiography Roy Keane mentioned that he went on holiday with you while both of you were playing at Nottingham Forest. What was he like?
Roy had signed for Forest shortly before me so we ended up living in the same house together for a couple of years. Roy is a fantastic lad and a good friend. He went on to achieve fantastic things in his career and will no doubt continue to do so in management.
Is he the best player you ever played alongside? If not, who is?
I was lucky to have played with a lot of great players in my career. At Forest there were some top class players such as Des Walker, Stuart Pearce, Gary Charles, Nigel Clough, Teddy Sheringham and Stan Collymore. At Portadown Vinny Arkins was an unbelievable talent, Mickey Keenan was a great goalkeeper and obviously at Newry Ollie Ralph was a special player. But yes, overall I’d have to say Roy Keane. What he went onto achieve in the game after he left Forest says it all really, going on to become one of the best players, not only in England, but in World football.
Did you meet Brian Clough at Forest?
Yes, Brian signed me for Nottingham Forest. “The Boss” as we all called him was a fantastic man. When he said something, everybody stood still and took note. What he achieved with a club like Forest was remarkable. People sometimes forget that he won two European Cups with them, which just shows how good a manager he was.
If you could have played alongside anybody in your career who would it have been and why?
One player I never played alongside in the Newry set up was Jervis McCaul. Jervis is one of the best five a side players I’ve come across so I’d have to go for him!
What’s the best ground you ever played at?
I’ve had the opportunity to play at some great stadiums over the years. When I was at Portadown I played in some nice stadiums in Yugoslavia and Belgium but the best ground I have played at would have to be Old Trafford, during my time at Nottingham Forest. There was just a different aura about the place. Nowadays, reserve teams in England would play at smaller grounds but when I was involved with the Forest reserve team we were lucky enough to play at all the top grounds in the country.
Who’s the best manager you played under?
I played under some fantastic coaches in my career. Matt Bradley was great in my younger days at Newry; obviously there was Brian Clough when I went over to Forest and then Ronnie McFaul was the Manager when I was with Portadown. All three were great characters and fantastic managers but I’d say Ronnie was probably the most influential one for me. I spent six years under Ronnie at Portadown and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Ronnie is a great coach and has the knack of signing the right type of player at the right time that is needed for a team to be successful.
Who was the most influential person in your career?
Firstly, there was my Dad for introducing me to the Newry Town set up. Then there was Artie Green who took me for a lot of the youth teams I played for throughout the Town. Artie was also the manager of the Newry Town U18 team when I first joined, which of course eventually got me into the Newry first team. Yes, I’d have to say Artie and my dad were the most influential people in my career, certainly in my early playing days anyway.
And finally…tell us one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know.
I was the second last player to score in front of the old terraced Spion Kop at Anfield before it was pulled down and replaced with seats. I scored the winner in a reserve game for Forest against Liverpool in the last league game of the 1993/94 season!