The pressure and expectation levels at Linfield are unique with respect to the domestic game but that’s not breaking news to Blues new boy Nathan Hanley.
Hanley agreed a two-and-a-half year deal with David Jeffrey’s side in January after he was placed on the transfer list by Ballymena United but the Carrick man knew what he was signing up to.
The former Downshire pupil began his career at Windsor Park and he was introduced to the club’s insatiable desire for silverware and winning mentality in the Under-18 side.
After three years at Hull City the cross-channel adventure came to an end and Hanley will always be grateful to Sky Blues boss Roy Walker for showing faith in him.
But in January this year his career was about to take a significant turn when he met Jeffrey.
“Within five minutes of talking to David Jeffrey I knew that although Glentoran were interested in me, I wanted to sign for Linfield,” said the 21-year-old.
“Being with the club since I was much younger was also in my thinking but of course the manager’s passion and desire to bring success to the club said everything.
“Even when I was with the Under-18 side and the Swifts I knew what this club was about and there was always going to be pressure.
“The expectation levels are very high and even as a young boy I
knew the set-up and what was expected from you. I bought into it then and I’ve returned hopefully to do a good job,” he said.
Hanley’s season started with a bang when he found the back of the Mourneview Park net, his sweet 35th minute strike helping to sink Glenavon 2-1.
The finish was even more remarkable as the shot came from his weaker right foot.
“I wouldn’t say I’m lethal with both but I’m working on both of them,” he added. “I can play left back, left midfield or centre midfield but of course I’d play anywhere.”
Returning home from Hull City, Hanley could have felt disillusioned and walked away from the game but he’s made of sterner stuff.
“I had a choice to make,” he said. “I was either going to give up the ghost or work hard to prove that I was a good player.
“I know the full-time option in England didn’t work out for me but I would encourage kids to give it a go while remaining realistic about your chances of succeeding. If things work out then it’s an opportunity that has to be grasped.
“I’m thankful to Roy Walker for giving me a chance and I had a great five or six months at Ballymena United. I know they have made a lot of changes since I left but I am expecting them to have a really good season.
“I think teams like that will challenge us all the way, I don’t just see Glentoran and Crusaders testing us. I know from playing against Linfield that teams raise their game against them.
“I can remember last season United where 3-1 down against the Blues but we came back to make it 3-3. Linfield are a big scalp but we have a great squad.
“It was important for me to have a good pre-season and getting the winner against Glenavon was a bonus.
“With the players we have, I’m hopeful we can enjoy another successful season.”