Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Fixture congestion a disgrace: Douglas

Steven Douglas has waded into the fixtures debate by calling the domestic football schedule “an absolute disgrace”.

And, ironically, the Linfield centre-back has let rip at a time he will pass an appearance milestone for the south Belfast giants!

If selected this afternoon against Newry City at the Showgrounds, the Ballymena man will join the ‘200 club’ at Linfield.

Although he has not clocked up as many appearances as legends such as William Murphy (over 500) and Noel Bailie (over 950), the double century still represents a stunning achievement at at a club that doesn’t tolerate below par performances.

And Douglas can be confident of adding substantially to his current total given how the games are coming thick and fast this season.

Several managers are getting hot under the collar about it, though you would expect a club with the strength of depth Linfield boasts to be able to handle the demanding schedule better than their rivals.

Douglas feels the pain of the angry bosses and he isn’t a fan of the Co-operative Insurance Cup format which features games over two legs up to the semi-final stage.

“I think the scheduling is an absolute disgrace,” blasted Douglas. “What is being asked of mainly part-time players is extraordinary.

“And I can’t see why these games have to be over two legs — why not a straight knockout like the County Antrim Shield or Irish Cup? It’s too much to ask of the players and the effort they are putting in is phenomenal.

“People talk about the depth of the squad at Linfield but if you have a bad game you’re out of the team and you have to deal with that. Everyone is fighting for their place and I guess you are only as good as your last performance.

“Linfield also have a Setanta Sports Cup schedule to contend with — the whole schedule is absolute madness. As for what we can do about it, there are people at the Irish Football Association who should look at it.”

It will still be an immensely proud moment for the centre-back if he celebrates his 200th appearance in the cup third round, first leg clash today.

“I have some way to go to catch up with the legends but 200 is still a milestone to be proud of,” added Douglas.

“There are very high standards at Linfield and if you aren’t winning football matches you are unlikely to stay in the squad.

“I can’t even recall my debut for the club — it might have been against Bangor or Distillery. I have been here for six years so I must be doing something right.

“The boys told me this week I was on the brink of making my 200th appearance and I was genuinely surprised.

“It’s a huge honour and privilege to play for the club but while personal milestones are great, the team ethic is what the club is about.

“Winning trophies is all that matters and now that we are in the final of the County Antrim Shield, we will be aiming to reach the final of this competition.

“I’m very excited about the squad manager David Jeffrey has — it is a team for now and for the future. The under-23 boys Jamie Mulgrew, Robbie Garrett, Curtis Allen and Michael Carvill, along with Philip Lowry, are all great players.”