Linfield are back in business and the good news for the Blues is so is Peter Thompson. The 29-year-old began the season with a bang by scoring a sensational goal against Portadown and the Windsor Park faithful are hoping he repeats the trick against champions Cliftonville today.
Thompson’s stunning individual goal against the Ports wasn’t enough to pocket the three points as Darren Murray had the final say with a late penalty.
The eight-times capped Northern Ireland international is hungry for better days after last season’s trophyless campaign but his career is not only a story of joy and pain on the pitch.
Thompson has had to get his career back on track after having a kidney removed two years ago.
Horrible back pain was caused by a non-functioning kidney and the organ had to be taken out.
While at Stockport County, he also suffered a chest infection and collapsed lung.
Thompson performs on a stage where fitness is everything so the health scares would have caused him significant concern.
But the Blues striker is much healthier and happier and he plans to keep playing football with a smile on his face. Linfield supporters are expecting fireworks from their new frontman Andy Waterworth but a fit and firing Thompson could see them become top dogs again.
When on fire, ‘Pistol Pete’ has hammered in 44 goals in 48 starts and his prolific goalscoring record earned him international recognition.
It’s unlikely we will see him in a Northern Ireland jersey again but there’s plenty more Linfield memories to be made.
“With regard to my health and fitness, I’m feeling much better. I feel fine,” admitted Thompson.
“I don’t expect too many people to understand what it was like for me but I’m never one for going round feeling sorry for myself. There’s plenty of people who have had bigger concerns than me.
“I had something to deal with at a relatively young age, I had the operation and now I don’t really think about it. I’m not looking back and dwelling on it because I’ve a lot to look forward to.
“There is huge disappointment at Linfield after what happened last season but there is also a real determination to fight back. It’s up to all the players to show that they can perform to the standard the club expects. We don’t want to go through that again — that’s our motivation this season.”
Cliftonville make their first visit of the season to Windsor Park tomorrow for a real heavyweight clash. Linfield finished a whopping 29 points behind the Reds last season and players and management know that a repeat performance would see an even bigger exodus from Windsor than witnessed this summer.
“Cliftonville deserved to win the league — they were miles ahead of us,” admitted Thompson. “It’s up to us now to show we can close that gap. A victory would give us four points from a possible six which would be a reasonable start and that’s what we are aiming for.
“Title talk is irrelevant now, it’s just about getting a few points on the board and hopefully finding a bit of momentum.”
Ruthless finisher Thompson is naturally an admirer of the Reds’ dynamic striking duo Joe Gormley and Liam Boyce. Both men have been linked with a move across the water, something the Blues favourite managed to secure in 2008 but illness, injury and a lack of first team action curtailed his progress.
“It’s disappointing that not many players are leaving the Irish League and getting a chance to improve in the professional game,” he added.
“I think clubs like to sign very young players and mould them into the player they want them to be whereas they might overlook a player in his 20s who has become accustomed to the Irish League.
“But I’d love to see more players like Joe and Liam get a chance to show what they can do.”
Meanwhile, Linfield supporters have confirmed they will boycott next weekend’s league clash at Seaview in protest at Crusaders’ legal battle with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure over the redevelopment of Windsor Park.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed on Tuesday that a Blues’ supporters group was calling on supporters not to attend Saturday’s fixture and the ‘Linfield Supporters Advisory Forum’ confirmed their plans in a statement issued yesterday.
Crusaders have withdrawn their Judicial Review in relation to government funding over the £25m redevelopment of Windsor Park but Linfield fans are still angry at statements made about their club.
The LSAF statement read: “The Linfield Supporters Advisory Forum are totally incensed and appalled at the disgraceful attack on our club contained within the written documents issued by Crusaders FC as part of their Judicial Review process with reference to the proud winning achievements of Linfield FC dating back to 1890.
“As a result of this underhand and devious attack on our proud history and achievements the Linfield Supporters Advisory Forum has unanimously decided that as a strong objection to their weasel words, we will not be attending Seaview for our forthcoming game with Crusaders FC on August 24th 2013 as we would find it totally abhorrent to provide any sort of financial support to a club that has attacked us in this manner.”