Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Glentoran boo boys won't silence Linfield's Andy Waterworth

Changing sides: Andy Waterworth was a hero to the Glentoran fans last season but he's ready for a different reception now he's a Linfield player

Andy Waterworth says he's ready to face the Glentoran boo boys this season.

While debate rages over who will win the Danske Bank Premiership or suffer the ignomy of relegation, one thing is certain.

Former Glentoran favourites Waterworth and Sean Ward will be given a hostile reception when they turn out for their new club Linfield against their old employers.

The first Big Two battle is scheduled for Saturday, August 31 and Waterworth is hoping to be back in business by then after his Linfield adventure was disrupted by a broken bone in his leg.

It was a painful blow sustained in the Faroe Islands before he scored in a 2-0 Europa League victory over IF Fuglafjordur.

But the 27-year-old, who signed a two-year deal at the Blues this summer, will soon be back in the groove and if David Jeffrey's men are to wrestle the Gibson Cup back off Cliftonville the former Hamilton sharpshooter is going to have to torture defences with his pace and finishing power.

The Reds know all about that after Waterworth dazzled for the Glens in the Irish Cup final but he went from hero to zero in the Oval faithful's eyes by joining the old enemy.

Glentoran fought hard to keep their star man at the Oval but the Belfast Telegraph revealed as far back as January that he was leaving for Linfield – it was simply a question of when.

He opted to give his all for the Glens until the end of the season and his two goals in the 3-1 Irish Cup final victory over the treble-chasing Reds was a dream end to his career on Mersey Street.

The Crossgar man can now cherish his cup winner's medal, an achievement that saw him honour the memory of his late grandfather, former Glentoran defender and captain Noel McCarthy who led the team to Irish Cup glory in 1951.

But now he's come to Linfield to win prizes and if Glentoran fans want to give him a piece of their mind, he can live with it.

"I'm going to get stick, there's no doubt about that and some of it will be deserved, some of it not," admitted Waterworth.

"Glentoran fans weren't happy at me going to Linfield and rightly so. I'm realistic and I know they didn't want me to leave.

"When a player leaves Glentoran for Linfield he will get some stick and it is something I have thought about but I'm not worried about it too much.

"I'm looking forward to playing in the big matches for Linfield and if I am playing for them against Glentoran then I am doing something right.

"Fans are entitled to their opinions but I have played in hostile atmospheres including Big Two matches before.

"It's part of Irish League football and you wouldn't want that rivalry or edge to be taken away from the games.

"I've had to deal with all sorts of things at football matches over the years and I'm more experienced now and can deal with it better.

"I think the team always comes first and it's not about individuals. There is an outstanding group of players at Linfield and when I'm fit again there's a massive challenge for me to get back into the side."

Former Northern Ireland Under-21 international Waterworth scored 66 goals in 214 appearances for Glentoran but one huge regret is that he only managed to get one league winner's medal since his return from Scotland in 2008.

"I've come to Linfield to win titles," he said. "I think the club is in a great position to do that even though they had a very disappointing season last time.

"As players we understand the demands and expectations that are here – the club is expected to win every game and we will go out with that intention.

"In my six years since coming back to Northern Ireland I only won the title once (in 2009) so that is a disappointment.

"But now I'm part of a very good squad and that's what really matters to me. With guys like Peter Thompson, Matthew Tipton and Mark McAllister in the team I'm really excited about the season ahead."

The Blues have been handed a nightmare start to their campaign. Up first is a trip to Portadown on Saturday followed by champions Cliftonville at Windsor Park, a visit to Crusaders and then Glentoran's visit to the international venue – all in the month of August.

On paper the clashes are tricky but they will certainly concentrate minds at Windsor at a time when Linfield must start strongly to silence the doubters – as well as the Glentoran boo boys.