Albert Watson has revealed the lengths that he is going to in order to bag his first Irish League title.
The 26-year-old will face Portadown in what could be a pivotal game in the race for the Carling Premiership crown as the top two do battle for the third time this season.
Watson is well aware of how big the Shamrock Park encounter is — and that is why he is putting himself through extra training as the Blues aim to stave off the challenge of Ronnie McFall’s men and take the title for the sixth time in seven season.
“At the start the biggest thing for me was to just get into the team,” said Watson.
“I knew it was going to be difficult because when I looked around I saw Winkie Murphy, David Armstrong, Chris Casement, Kris Lindsay and Steven Douglas all competing for a place at centre-half.
“I’ve got into the team and stayed there, which I suppose says that I’ve done what is expected of me.”
Watson, who joined the Blues from Ballymena United last summer, has played 34 times this season — which is more than anyone else in the Linfield squad has made.
And that statistic alone should silence any of the doubters who didn’t think the big defender would be a hit at Windsor Park.
“With no disrespect to Ballymena it’s different going into games with Linfield when you know you’re expected to win,” said Watson.
“At times at Ballymena I would have been going into a run of matches wondering where points were going to come from and sometimes we were happy to win the big games but took our eye off the ball in other matches.
“We would play well, but not consistently and we’d struggle to put a winning run together. You can’t do that at Linfield.
“I feel more confident as a player, but I think there’s still more to come from me.
“I know I can improve on a few aspects of my game. You can’t just come into the Linfield team and stand still.
“I stay behind after training and work on things. Winkie Murphy is the oldest player in the squad and he stays behind, so if he’s doing it then I should too.
“We’ll work on things together, whether it’s our passing, our heading or just some sprints or sit-ups to improve our all-round fitness. They’re the kind of things that you have to do to be a better player.”
Linfield have a four-point lead over the Ports with 10 games of the season remaining. If that becomes seven tomorrow afternoon the signs will be ominous for the chasing pack.
A win for the Ports, which would leave only a single point between them and David Jeffrey’s team, is what everyone else in the league will be hoping for and with both teams due to face third-placed Cliftonville in the next couple of weeks, the title race will be blown wide open if it’s Ronnie McFall’s men who are celebrating.
Watson is the only player who has figured regularly for Linfield this season who hasn’t got his hands on the league title as yet — of his fellow summer 2011 arrivals Gary Browne has spent most of the season injured and Daryl Fordyce was a champions with Glentoran in 2009.
That is a statistic that Watson is desperate to change as he strives to start a medal collection that never quite got going at Ballymena.
“I’d a couple of chances to sign for Linfield before, but I think I came to the club at the right time,” said Watson.
“Noel Bailie and Winkie Murphy were established before. Noel is a club legend and I could have been stuck behind those two. Even until he retired Noel was still playing and the manager showed great respect for him by using him right to the end of last season.
“I came to Linfield wanting to win things, to play in finals and everyone is trying to win the league again.
“We’re top of the league and we have the determination to win our matches and make sure that’s where we finish.”