Belfast Telegraph

Warren Feeney's Linfield reign will focus on quality

By Steven Beacom

Linfield manager Warren Feeney has revealed he could have signed '100 new players' by now such is the interest in joining the club, but insists he only wants those who can turn the Blues into Irish League champions.

Feeney's phone has been red hot since moving into the Windsor Park hotseat and taking over from the legendary David Jeffrey less than a month ago.

He has already recruited former Hibs striker Sammy Morrow and more will follow as long as the new boss feels they have the class and character to be a success.

"If I had said yes to every agent or player that I have spoken to I'd now have 100 new players on the books. It shows what a big club Linfield are because so many footballers want to join us," said the former Northern Ireland international.

"To me it's not about bringing in someone just because they are a free agent, it's about bringing in the right person with the right ability and strong mentality who can fit into my plans and make Linfield better.

"In England now there will be around 1500 to 2000 players out of contract and when you enter that market it's about making the correct choices."

Feeney has been linked with Northern Ireland stars Sammy Clingan and Andy Little plus Rangers youngster Chris Hegarty.

He says: "I've played with Sammy at international level and I know what he brings. If he wanted to play Irish League football of course I'd be interested but so would every other club in the country. I'm sure Sammy will feel he could still do a job in full-time football and the same goes for Andy Little.

"Chris Hegarty is a player who I rate highly. I'm keeping an eye on him but we'll just have to see what develops."

While targeting quality from across the water, Feeney is also searching closer to home.

The 33-year-old stated: "I'm looking at everyone who I feel can improve our team and that includes in the Irish League. There are good players playing here and if they can help Linfield win trophies, I'll be interested.

"I'm also keen to develop young talent within our club. There is a great set-up at Linfield and I want to ensure we use it to maximum effect."

Since Feeney's reign began, there have been notable departures from Windsor – none more so than Michael Gault, who has joined Portadown along with Mark McAllister and Robert Garrett, who also left the Blues.

Gault, who captained the side in Jeffrey's final years, enjoyed great times at Linfield but this could be one of those occasions when a parting of the ways proves beneficial for player and club.

Gault, though, was upset at the manner of his departure, labelling it a 'disgrace'.

Feeney's response: "Michael was made a very good offer. I don't want to be drawn into anything with him because he was a great servant to the club, but I didn't feel it was a disgrace how things were handled.

"He has moved on now and good luck to him. All I am concentrating on is what's best for Linfield and giving us the best chance of winning the league because we haven't done that for the last two seasons."

The departure of Gault means a new Linfield skipper will be required.

On that subject, Feeney says: "A captain should lead by example and have respect in the dressing room. On the field, though, I want 11 captains and if that means someone without the armband telling another player that they aren't doing their job right, that's okay by me. What I don't want are sulking players who cannot accept constructive criticism.

"The most important thing for me is to have everyone at the club pulling in one direction and a real togetherness in the camp. That way we can be successful," added Feeney, whose first competitive game as boss will be a Europa League tie in early July.

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