I'm grateful for Brendan Rodgers' guidance, says Linfield boss David Healy
Linfield boss David Healy has spoken about the inspirational role played by Brendan Rodgers in persuading Northern Ireland's record goalscorer to move into management.
Healy and Rodgers have become two of the country's most famous football names in the 21st century. The former scored 36 goals for Northern Ireland, including some of the most celebrated strikes ever seen at Windsor Park, while the latter almost guided Liverpool to long-awaited Premier League title glory and lifted Celtic to a history-making unbeaten domestic treble.
Next month, the pair could be going head-to-head in the Champions League. For Killyleagh's finest to meet Carnlough's favourite son, Linfield must defeat San Marino side La Fiorita in this season's first qualifying round.
Windsor Park and Parkhead will be filled with noise and colour should the best side in Northern Ireland play Scotland's Invincibles.
There is enormous respect between the managers, who guided their respective clubs to domestic trebles last term.
Rodgers recalls with relish watching Healy score goal after goal for Northern Ireland as the striker smashed in sensational winners against England, Spain, Sweden and more.
And the former Swansea and Liverpool boss, always an advocate of young coaches, has been greatly encouraged by how well Healy has done in his first managerial post.
In turn, 37-year-old Healy is a huge fan of Rodgers the man, as well as the manager.
In 2013, the former Manchester United and Rangers star retired from playing and looked towards coaching. Doing his coaching badges, Healy remembers a meeting with the then Liverpool boss Rodgers leaving him feeling '8ft tall' as he walked away from the Merseyside club's Melwood training ground. It had an inspiring impact.
In an interview conducted before yesterday's draw, Healy said: "I learned a huge amount from Brendan.
"I know even managing a club like Linfield at our level can be hugely time consuming and Brendan was up to his eyes with different things at Liverpool back then, but I remember him speaking to his secretary to make sure his phone wasn't busy when we were in his office at Liverpool's training ground.
"I was with Stephen Robinson, who is now in charge of Motherwell, and in the time we spent at Melwood we watched Brendan take training, met some of the players, had lunch with Brendan and he went out of his way for four or five hours to show us around and give us tips that he used as a manager.
"It was fascinating listening about his profile of players, why he brought players to the club, what he expected and what he wanted from them. Tapping into his knowledge and expertise was a real insight.
"I had met Brendan before, and with us being from the same country we would say hello and shake hands and be respectful, but that day getting to spend time with him was a fantastic experience.
"I came out of his office feeling about 8ft tall, and not just because of his compliments to me as a player and him talking about what I had done for Northern Ireland, but he said anything that we needed going forward with our coaching badges he would happily help which was a boost at the time.
"He was brilliant and he made sure that when we left that building we were thinking, 'we want to be football managers or coaches' and I've always appreciated that.
"I'm not surprised that he has done so well at Celtic with the amount of detail I witnessed and the amount of time he spends on his own team and the opposition.
"Like Rangers, Celtic are a big club, but it wouldn't surprise me if Brendan went on to manage outside of the UK and went to one of the really big clubs in Europe."