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Legend Healy can shock world at Windsor again: Hughes

 

By Steven Beacom

Linfield manager David Healy has stunned the world at Windsor Park before, and his old international team-mate Aaron Hughes believes it is possible he could do so again when Celtic come to Belfast for Friday's Champions League qualifier.

Hearts defender Hughes has savoured Healy's heroics in a Northern Ireland shirt down the years and, although he accepts Celtic are overwhelming favourites against the Blues, where the Killyleagh man and Windsor are concerned it is wise not to rule anything out.

In the past, Healy's goals in Belfast have defeated a star-studded England side and a Spanish team that would go on to dominate world football.

His 36th and final international strike at home to Azerbaijan salvaged a draw, and maybe even saved Michael O'Neill's job, which everyone in the country would appreciate given the glory run to the Euro 2016 finals which followed.

As a manager in his first full season at Linfield, Healy inspired the Blues to the Danske Bank Premiership title, plus Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield success despite being written off in many quarters.

No one can deny that Windsor is Healy's playground, though he faces his toughest challenge there yet in the first leg of the second qualifying round game against Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles.

Hughes, who played for Hearts in a 4-1 friendly win over Linfield on Saturday, said: "David has shocked the world at Windsor Park before.

"When he was playing for Northern Ireland he seemed capable of achieving anything at the ground and since become manager of Linfield he has obviously done a fantastic job.

"This is a tie that he will relish."

Hughes added: “Anything is possible. In football, strange things happen sometimes. If Celtic turn up and play the way they can play it will be very difficult.

You are hoping they have an off night and Linfield play at the top of their game and then you never know. Aaron Hughes

“I can’t imagine being manager of Linfield is an easy job because the expectation is to win trophies every year.

“To win three last season and be in a position to be playing a team that not only dominated their domestic league but also play in the Champions League regularly is great for David and his players. They deserve this tie and hopefully they will enjoy it.”

Even though Celtic won’t have their large away following, because the club refused to take up their ticket allocation for Windsor, Hughes does not feel the Hoops will be adversely affected by the lack of support in the ground.

He does, however, insist the noise from the home fans can be a huge boost to the Blues.

He said: “The crowd can help Linfield. With regards to Celtic they are used to playing in big occasions and big atmospheres. Players like that can deal with that type of thing, but I do believe the home crowd can help the home team and give them a boost. I think it will be a fascinating game and good to watch.”

In the Scottish Premiership last season, Hughes (below) had a taste of what the Linfield defenders will face on Friday. He said: “Celtic are such a good side. They showed that last season.

“They have Premier League players. Their squad is like that with them playing in the Champions League. It will be difficult for Linfield because Celtic move the ball around well and it’s the speed at which they move you and then they have the quality to be clinical.

“It’s not like you can make one or two mistakes and get away with it. It will be a really good test for the Linfield boys.

“How will Linfield deal with it? That’s David’s problem,” said Hughes with a smile. “It is something they should look forward to and not be nervous about.”

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