Belfast Telegraph

Lifting back-to-back titles is Blues' main priority, says David Healy

By Steven Beacom

David Healy has declared that this season is about retaining the Irish League title for Linfield and believes if the Blues finish above Crusaders they will have every chance of achieving that goal.

Linfield, in Healy's first full campaign in charge, won the treble last term, adding the Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield to championship glory secured on the final day in a thrilling race with the Crues.

If three was the magic number in 2016-2017, the big one will do nicely this time around for Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

Ahead of his side's home opener against Carrick Rangers today, Healy said: "The title is our main goal. It is all about winning the league. Anything after that is a bonus.

"It's important we begin well and the players are in good spirits and can't wait to get started. I feel there is a bite about the players. They are busting to get at it and that's a good sign.

"It will be another interesting season. I imagine Crusaders will be up there again. They have brought in new faces as have Cliftonville, who also have a new manager in Barry Gray and attacking options who will be a threat.

"David Jeffrey at Ballymena United has brought in quite a few players and they will be looking to improve and Coleraine will want to build on what they achieved last season. Glenavon have signed Andy Mitchell from Dungannon and Gary Hamilton will be hoping he provides a spark for them.

"If you said to me now though if you finished above Crusaders would you take that, I think if you do you will be in with a right chance of winning the title."

Linfield have not lost a domestic game since January. Carrick, under new management in Davy McAlinden, will be the first to try and end that run. Healy is well aware everyone will be out to defeat his champions.

"No matter who we play, teams always raise their game. We understand that. I noticed that early on as Linfield manager," said Healy. "I'm sure Carrick will be out to cause an upset.

"They have a new manager, they have lots of new players and will want to come and make an impression. David McAlinden is an experienced guy and they will be organised and disciplined.

"We started last season a bit hit and miss, dropped a few points and our home record was starting to concern us. But the players proved at the end of the season how much they could handle playing at Windsor and that will be the aim again.

"We have had a good pre-season with good friendly games and four competitive games in the Champions League against Celtic and the San Marino team. I think the players are in a better place than we were last season.

"We follow last season by forgetting what happened. It is all about what you are doing now."

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