Belfast Telegraph

Linfield manager Warren Feeney relishing return to Windsor Park

Blues boss Warren relishing making his Windsor bow

By Steven Beacom

Warren Feeney is relishing the prospect of finally going 'home' and has revealed that walking out for the first time at Windsor Park as manager of Linfield will be up there with the great nights he enjoyed at the stadium as a Northern Ireland star.

With redevelopment work going on at Windsor and a new grass pitch taking time to grow, Linfield were forced to play all their early season fixtures away from their ground.

Even the home ties for the Blues in Europe took place at Mourneview Park in Lurgan 25 miles away, but tomorrow against Warrenpoint Town in the Danske Bank Premiership, Feeney's men make their long awaited return to the famous Belfast venue, which if the Irish FA have their way will stage the European Super Cup final and Carl Frampton world title fights in the future.

Feeney, part of the David Healy inspired Northern Ireland squad which beat top nations in Belfast in the mid 2000s, said: "The stadium means a lot to me.

"As a kid I would watch matches at Windsor and then later on I got to play and score there for my country which was fantastic and on Saturday I'll be managing Linfield at the ground.

"I'm really excited about the game with Warrenpoint. It's my first match as manager at Windsor Park and it is our first match of the season at home.

"Playing all our games away so far this season has been tough, not just on the players but on our fans as well, so I think everyone is looking forward to being back at Windsor.

"It was amazing to be part of those big nights at the stadium as a player when we were competing with and beating big teams and walking out as manager of Linfield, the team I've always loved, will be like another dream come true.

"I think everyone knows how much Linfield means to me and I want to give the fans something to cheer home and away this season and beyond.

"The game on Saturday is a special one as it is our first opportunity to show the Windsor Park crowd what we are trying to achieve."

It goes with the territory, but Feeney, who replaced David Jeffrey in the summer, has already taken some criticism this season, especially after the Blues lost to Belfast Telegraph Championship side Ballyclare Comrades in the League Cup.

Never a shrinking violet, the 33-year-old, who won 46 caps, has not been shy to hit back, insisting that his team are progressing.

He has a point because as the table stands, if the Blues, on the back of playing six straight away matches, were to win their game in hand, they would go level on points with league leaders Glenavon.

It's also worth noting that Jeffrey's successor has been unfortunate with injuries losing key players such as Sean Ward, Andrew Waterworth and Peter Thompson for various periods of time which has led to Feeney putting on the boots to help his team on the pitch.

In Linfield's last match – a 0-0 draw away at champions Cliftonville – Feeney tweaked his groin and is unlikely to be available for tomorrow against a Warrenpoint side who, while disappointed not to beat the Solitude men last weekend, will have taken heart from their performance in the 1-1 draw.

Feeney is delighted by the spirit in his camp and says he's been impressed by the standard in the Irish League.

"I think there are some very good players and very good teams over here and it is an exciting league to be involved in," he said.

"I have to say that I thought Ballyclare, from the Championship, also played at a good standard that night they beat us," he added.

"Against Ballyclare some fringe players were given a chance and it didn't work out.

"I don't blame them for that as it was one of those nights and I don't make an apology for the team selection either because from the moment I came in here my main focus has been on the league.

"My players have been great. I've been in dressing rooms down the years when there have been bad eggs, though thankfully we don't have one at Linfield.

"It's hard of course for some when they don't get selected, but people like Michael Carvill, who hasn't played as much as he would have liked, have been brilliant, keeping upbeat and smiling.

"He'll play an important role this season and so will other lads who haven't featured on a regular basis to date," said Feeney.

"We are all in this together."

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