David Healy hails his staff after picking up Manager of Month prize
David Healy yesterday received a boost ahead of Saturday's Tennent's Irish Cup final by picking up the NI Football Writers' April Manager of the Month award.
The former Northern Ireland striker, still on a high after Linfield's Premiership title win at the weekend, has guided the Blues through a staggering 18-game unbeaten run, which helped them rise to the top of the table ahead of Crusaders with only one game remaining.
And they finished the job with a certain degree of panache against Cliftonville at Solitude at the weekend with Andy Waterworth's sublime hat-trick sparking scenes of raw emotion, both at Solitude and later on Saturday evening when 2,000 fans turned up to acclaim the new champions at Windsor Park.
"If you win Manager of the Month for April, it means your team has produced the goods at the most important part of the season," said Healy.
"This one is actually a bit special because I was in the grandstand for six matches due to a suspension. Although I prepared the boys during the week, I hadn't the access to the players I needed on match days.
"So a huge amount of credit goes to Ross Oliver, Alfie Wylie and our goalkeeping coach Johnny Williamson, along with the rest of the backroom staff.
"A lot of people didn't know about Ross' background when I appointed him. I knew how hard he worked, I knew what he wanted out of the game. Alfie had been at the club for some years. He's an astute coach and he knows what is required."
Healy, though, deserves an enormous amount of plaudits. He has transformed the Blues into title winners, when they had been written off by many.
"It's all down to the players, they are the guys who win games," said Healy. "I can help them, I can advise and we can talk about where we can improve, but when they cross the white line, it's then up to them.
"They are the fittest team in the league. The pre-season they had last June was the toughest they've had in the last number of years. We put in the hard yards in pre-season and we put in the hard yards on Monday and Tuesday nights - the players have responded."
With the County Antrim Shield and the league trophy sitting proudly in the Linfield boardroom, Healy is still not finished and now has his sights fixed on the Irish Cup.
"We are greedy at this club," he added. "We have something to prove after last year's defeat in the final against Glenavon.
"Sometimes you have to wait to get a chance to put it right, but we've had to wait only 12 months, so we are determined. The players are ready."
• It's advantage Ballyclare Comrades at the halfway stage of the NI Football League Championship pre-play-off.
Corey McMullan's 81st minute strike earned a 1-0 victory over Institute, who will look to turn the tie around in Friday night's second leg at The Riverside Stadium, when Carrick Rangers' opponents in next week's promotion/relegation play-offs will be determined.
Newry City, meanwhile, have all but secured their place in the Championship thanks to a thumping 4-0 defeat of Armagh City in last night's Premier Intermediate League promotion/relegation play-off first leg, leaving the Eagles with a mountain to climb in the return meeting.