Belfast Telegraph

Spine-tingling Linfield have Jeffrey rejoicing

By Graham Luney

Every championship-winning side needs to have a strong and powerful spine and Linfield manager David Jeffrey believes he has one at Windsor Park.

The champions, who welcome Donegal Celtic to Windsor Park tonight, have already thrown down the gauntlet to Glentoran this season by racing into a five-points lead in the Carling Premiership.

And the secret behind the Blues’ strong start is a phenomenal team effort but while the collective effort has been formidable, several individuals have really stamped their class on proceedings this season.

Step forward the best spine in the domestic game — Alan Blayney, Robert Garrett and Peter Thompson.

The talented trio have been hitting the headlines this season and there’s no doubt they are vital parts of the Blues’ title-winning machine.

All three have gained recognition at international level, with Garrett scooping the Carling Player of the Month gong for October.

Jeffrey has reason to be proud of all his heroes but Linfield’s reluctance to play a league game when Blayney is away on international duty tells you everything you need to know with regard to how they value their number one.

And Thompson, after a slow start to the campaign, has rediscovered his shooting boots as he threatens to put in the best performances of his career.

“All the players have performed to a very high level,” said Jeffrey. “Alan Blayney has been immense, his stature in the game has grown ten-fold and that has been recognised by his international call-ups. His consistency has been superb. The emergence of David Armstrong and Chris Casement has been excellent but the return to form of Peter Thompson who is now leading the way with 15 goals has been wonderful. The midfield combination of Garrett, Jamie Mulgrew and Michael Gault — and in particular Robert Garrett — has been very pleasing.

“Robert has come from a footballing situation where he probably didn’t experience the cauldron of having to perform every week to such a level that you are winning every week.

“Last year he matured, then he won his international cap and he hasn’t come back like a ‘Billy Big-Time’, he’s never worked harder than he is now. His performances have been hugely significant but all the players deserve praise.”

Linfield maintained their title charge with an impressive 2-1 win at Portadown on Friday night but top flight new boys Donegal Celtic will not be pushovers this evening.

“I think back to the Ballymena United game (3-3) as another example of how incredibly difficult this league is,” added Jeffrey.

“Both sides had chances to win it. Look at Distillery at the beginning of the season when Glentoran trounced them and who would have imagined them winning at the Oval the way they did?

“Last year was tight and I expect the race to be even tighter this time round.”

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