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Score at Celtic and you'll net Linfield legend status, says former Blue

 

By Steven Beacom

Former Linfield star Ivan Sproule has told the Blues players they can become legendary figures at the club if they score against Celtic at Parkhead in the Champions League tonight.

Sproule knows all about hitting the target in the 60,000 capacity stadium - his first goal inside Celtic's home in 2005 helped Hibs win there for the first time in 13 years. Ironically, one of the other scorers for Hibs in their 3-1 victory that day was current Hoops captain Scott Brown.

Having moved from Irish League side Institute to Easter Road, ex-Northern Ireland ace Sproule is in the ideal position to offer advice to the Linfield players in Glasgow. He wants David Healy's men to revel in the experience and the atmosphere just as he did several years ago.

Ahead of the second qualifying round second leg, Sproule said: "If one of the Linfield lads scores at Parkhead, he will get the keys to Windsor Park and forever be a legend.

"It would be lovely for Linfield to get a goal. That would be huge for the club and the players.

"In the first leg at Windsor when Linfield lost 2-0, I thought they gave a good account of themselves and the Irish League. If they can go to Parkhead and come away with a respectable performance, that would be great.

"It will be tougher at Parkhead but it will be a great experience for the Linfield lads to showcase their talent. If it was me I would be rocking up to Parkhead trying to spoil the party or at least enhance my reputation and more importantly Linfield's."

Last week, Sproule reunited with Celtic midfielder Brown when the Scotland star invited him to the Culloden hotel, where the Hoops were based for the first leg. The former Omagh Town ace, who scored six goals in his career against Celtic and a hat-trick against Rangers at Ibrox, took his son Alfie with him and met Brendan Rodgers as well as spending time with his good pal Brown.

Reflecting on that historic moment 12 years ago when he scored his first goal at Parkhead, Sproule, who now manages intermediate side Ardstraw, said: "I was a bit of an unknown. Tony Mowbray (then Hibs boss) was using me off the bench back then. I didn't think I was going to come on because I had been plucked from the Irish League.

"I think my first touch came off my shin and went out for a throw-in. There were 60,000 people laughing at me but then with my next touch I was putting the ball in the back of the net to make it 2-1 to us and the only noise was from the Hibs fans celebrating.

"I can remember running towards our fans and Dean Shiels running after me. I'll never forget that feeling. It was incredible for someone who had played Irish League football for a long time to go to Parkhead and score a goal that helped Hibs win there for the first time in ages.

"I really enjoyed playing at Parkhead despite all the things that were shouted at me. I used it as motivation. It is a fantastic stadium with an incredible atmosphere and hopefully the Linfield boys will relish it."

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