Revitalised Linfield return for renewed title charge
David Jeffrey expects his players to be fully charged for a fresh championship assault after an extended break over Christmas.
Linfield are desperate to win the Premiership title for the 50th time in their 125th year but Glentoran, despite their deep financial woes, are refusing to give up on their own Gibson Cup dream.
The freezing temperatures prevented the Big Two festive showdown from going ahead at Windsor Park on Monday and the postponement allowed Linfield players and management time to recharge batteries and assess where they need to improve.
A County Antrim Shield final defeat to Glentoran followed by a 3-1 loss at Cliftonville has given the Blues food for thought at a time when their old enemy can feel the wind at their backs.
The Glentoran clash will now be placed to the back of minds as a tricky end of year test at Donegal Celtic arrives this afternoon (2pm).
“It can be emotionally draining being a footballer and it’s important they get some rest from the physical and mental demands of playing for a club like Linfield,” said Jeffrey.
“We have been able to rest and reflect because, over the last few years, the players have had very little time to switch off. The time they have had for themselves has been absolutely minimal.
“Players just want to play football and it has been frustrating — we have had problems finding a place to train properly — but, when we analyse where we are, we can think about a Glentoran game where we didn’t turn up and a Cliftonville game when officialdom played its part. The players know when they cross the line they have a job to do and I expect them to be fully charged going into the new year and ready for the challenges ahead.”
Basement battlers Donegal Celtic have endured a miserable start to life in the top flight but a victory over the champions at Suffolk Road would represent a perfect belated Christmas present.
“When I think of DC I see a team that can score goals,” added Jeffrey. “They are also an immensely proud club and they will fight like tigers. This is a great opportunity for them to win pride back and we can be left in no doubt that they will make it a very tough game for us. It’s up to us to respond to the passion and hunger they will show.”
Linfield will be without the suspended Robert Garrett and Mark McAllister but their opponents will not be able to call on the services of the banned Paul McVeigh, Andy Cleary and Liam Watson.
The Blues are thought to be keeping an eye on Ballymena United defender Michael Smith but it is unlikely any business will be concluded next month.