Saturday 24 March 2018

Lyttle relishing 'dream' Cliftonville battle with former club Celtic

Jamie Holland

Cliftonville first-team coach Gerard Lyttle was left almost speechless after the Belfast side were paired with his former club Celtic in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.

The former Parkhead youth recruit was signed by then Celtic manager Lou Macari in 1994.

Lyttle failed to register a first-team appearance in his three and a half years with the club, but he still retains a soft spot for the Scottish giants and cannot wait for the first leg of the tie at Celtic Park on July 16 or 17. The return leg will be at Solitude a week later.

"It's unbelievable. There are almost no words to describe the draw. I was a Celtic player and I'm still a supporter so it's a dream come true."

Former Peterborough defender Lyttle admitted: "We will be big underdogs and everyone will write us off but we will go there with a game-plan. I just hope the players don't get stage fright.

"We didn't get together for the draw, but with social media we all soon found out.

"We started pre-season last Saturday and will be working for most of the week. I don't expect the treatment table to be full. Everyone will be buzzing."

Celtic, who lifted the trophy in 1967, will be hoping for a repeat of last season's success in the competition when they overcame HJK Helsinki and Helsingborgs to book their place in the group stage, where they faced Barcelona, Spartak Moscow and Benfica.

Impressive results – including a famous victory over the Catalan giants – saw them progress to the last 16, where they were eventually eliminated by Juventus.

Irish Independent

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