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Rory Hale On Captaining Cliftonville, Aston Villa And Coaching

Rory Hale On Captaining Cliftonville, Aston Villa And Coaching

An interview with Rory Hale, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are the captain of Cliftonville having joined the club in 2021. How would you reflect on your time at the club so far?

“This is my fourth season with the club and to play for the club means so much to me because I grew up in a family of Cliftonville fans and I am a Cliftonville fan myself.

“Captaining the club as of this season has been a great honour. I take pride in wearing the armband and doing all that I can to help the club move forward.

“The highlight of my time at the club so far would have to be winning the Irish League Cup in 2022. It was a great day for the club and my first trophy as a Cliftonville player too.

“Winning silverware is the best thing for any footballer and that league cup meant a lot, especially given the fact that we narrowly missed out on the Irish league title by a point in the same season.

“That being said, my main ambition and aim is to win a league title with the club in the future. That would be incredibly special for me, my family and everyone associated with the club.”

You are now working under Jim Magilton and Gerard Lyttle at the club. What have they been like to work with from a player’s perspective?

“They have been a breath of fresh air at the club.

“There were a few doubters when Jim was appointed from the fanbase and within the media but he has certainly proved them wrong.

“We are producing strong results and playing attractive football. He has given everyone at the club a new lease of life and I am enjoying my football under him and Gerard.”

You have played in the Irish league for the majority of your senior career to date. How has the league developed during your time playing within it?

“I am now in my sixth consecutive season playing in the Irish League and the quality improves year on year.

“Teams are producing talented young footballers and the style of play within the league has changed as a result of that.

“The tactical and technical quality of teams in Northern Ireland has improved dramatically over my time in the league with many teams looking to play attractive, attacking football. 

“That can only be a good thing for the fans who attend our games or watch the league on television.

“Investment in the league has grown in that time too which has enabled clubs to attract a higher quality of player. For example, this season at Cliftonville, we have signed Ben Wilson from Brighton and Hove Albion who is a terrific young player.

“Added to that, players such as Conor McMenamin and Brad Lyons have left the league in recent seasons to go on and establish themselves in the Scottish Premiership and for the Northern Irish national side.”

As a young player, you moved to Aston Villa and captained their under-23 side. What was your time at Villa Park like from a developmental perspective?

“I absolutely loved my time at Aston Villa and I would rewind the clock and do it all over again if I could. That is how much I enjoyed it.

“Unfortunately, there were a lot of managerial changes during my five years or so at the club that did not help me as a young player wanting to break into the team.

“It was a case of one step forward under a manager who appeared to believe in you then three steps back when you had to prove yourself all over again when a new manager came in.

“The facilities were an absolute joy to train in and I have nothing but positive memories from my time at Aston Villa.”

In addition to playing in the Irish League, you also played in the League of Ireland with Derry City and Galway United post Aston Villa. You won the League of Ireland Cup with Derry City. How pleasing was that for you after your time in England?

“That achievement meant so much to me because it was my first trophy as a senior professional. 

“Added to that, I was at Derry City for the reopening of the Brandywell Stadium which was a special moment for the club. 

“I loved playing for Derry City and I have memories from my time there that will last a lifetime.”

Before joining Cliftonville, you played for Crusaders in the Irish League and won the Irish Cup and the County Antrim shield with the club. How do you reflect on your time at Seaview?

“Crusaders is a brilliant club and winning two trophies there was another highlight in my career.

“It was a shame that I was not getting the game time that I believe that I deserved in my final season at the club. 

“Unfortunately, that is football. You are in favour and you can be out of favour so I made the decision to leave the club which led me to where I am now at Cliftonville. 

“I have no regrets from my time there everything has all worked out for me in the end.”

Finally, Rory, you turn 27 in the new year and for most footballers that means that you are approaching your peak years. What do you hope to achieve in the future?

“27… thanks for the reminder and for making me feel old, Callum (laughs).

“No, in all seriousness, I have been fortunate to win trophies throughout my career with Derry City, Crusaders and now at Cliftonville.

“The only thing that I am lacking is a league title and that is something that I would love to do with Cliftonville in the coming years.

“Winning an Irish Cup with the club would also mean a lot to me as it has been decades since the club won that competition. 

“As a result of that, many of our fans joke that there must be some sort of curse on the club when it comes to the Irish Cup.

“Therefore, striving to win the Irish Cup and the Irish League for Cliftonville are my main aims and ambitions in the years ahead.”