Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Linfield side of 2006 reunite for Michael Gault and still turn on the style

Linfield's Michael Gault pictured in action with Manchester United's Keith Gillespie

It was just like old times at Windsor Park on Saturday as Linfield turned the clock back to the most famous season in the club's recent history.

The Blues' 2006 Grand Slam winning squad reunited to face a Manchester United Legends team in honour of current club captain Michael Gault.

And as they rolled back the years, the squad that is arguably the best that David Jeffrey has assembled during his reign as Linfield manager, did exactly what they had done through virtually the entire 2005-06 campaign -- win.

Back then the team won the Irish League title, the Irish Cup, the League Cup and Co Antrim Shield within the space of six months, leaving the rest of the league with nothing to cling to.

This time, just like before, they won both comfortably and in style too.

The waistlines of those who have since retired might be a little bit bigger, the faces of those still playing may look a little bit older and the pace of the game was noticeably slower than it would have been when they were all in their heyday, but other than that very little has changed.

Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson -- who hit 90 goals between them in that Grand Slam season -- led the way once again, scoring two goals each in a 7-4 win for the Linfield team.

David Larmour stepped off the bench to score as well, with former Cliftonville player Aidan O'Kane and current Reds star Stephen Garrett chipping in too.

Gault and his former sidekick Paul McAreavey patrolled the midfield with purpose, while at the back the old partnership of William Murphy and Noel Bailie didn't take kindly to conceding four goals -- even if it was a friendly game.

One of those United goals came from Lee Martin. The stage wasn't as grand as when he scored at Wembley to win the FA Cup back in 1990, but trophies weren't the motivation this time. The United legends were here to enjoy themselves and entertain and in that sense they won.

Keith Gillespie also got onto the scoresheet at Windsor Park, something he only managed once during his Northern Ireland career.

Gault's former Linfield team-mates Conor Hagan and Lee Feeney -- who hadn't been in the Grand Slam team -- guested for United and got onto the scoresheet themselves.

There was no goal for Gault, but then he's never been renowned as a regular contributor in front of the net, so again it was just like it's always been, but it didn't really matter.

"I thought it was a great occasion for the supporters who turned up," said Linfield manager David Jeffrey.

"I'm delighted for Michael Gault. He deserved a fantastic day and that's what it was."

Earlier in the day the current Linfield team defeated Amateur League side Nortel to win the Barry McClung Memorial Trophy.

The match was held in honour of the former Linfield scout who also had close links with Nortel.

* THE Northern Ireland under-17 girls team lost 5-1 to hosts Scotland in Formartine yesterday, but they are still on track to make the Elite phase of the European Championships.

Aimee Mackin followed up her hat-trick in the 4-3 win over the Czech Republic in Friday's opening game by scoring again, but the Scots were already 3-0 up by that stage and scored twice more in the second half.

Alison Nicholl's girls know that victory over Montenegro in Wednesday's final game will be enough to secure them qualification.

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