The re-building job has begun at Linfield and will continue throughout the summer following the announcement that Irish Cup final hero Andy Waterworth has left Glentoran to move to Windsor Park on a two-year deal.
It's a huge boost for the Blues and a major blow to the Glens who were desperately hoping to keep the highly rated 27-year-old striker, who tortured champions Cliftonville in last Saturday's decider, netting twice in a 3-1 victory for the east Belfast outfit, taking his tally to 25 for the season.
Glentoran thanked Waterworth for his service to the club, but clearly his Big Two switch has not gone down well at the Oval.
A statement released on the Glentoran website yesterday read: “The Board of Directors is disappointed to announce that despite offering Andy Waterworth an improved three-year contract, he has opted to let his current deal lapse in order to sign for another club which was both prepared to meet his salary expectations and guarantee his position as their first choice forward.
“Whilst naturally disappointed to lose Andy after his most productive season at the club, the Board of Directors is not willing to engage in a bidding war that would endanger our ability to work within a sustainable budg
et.” Linfield manager David Jeffrey was surprised by the wording of that statement, saying: “For anyone to even suggest the possibility of a bidding war is totally wrong and in no way reflects the course of events. At a later date, if necessary, I will give a full account of said events. For now I am delighted that Linfield have signed a quality player who will provide us with an extra dimension in attack.”
Waterworth is the second signing of the close season for the Blues, who have already captured Glenavon defender Mark Haughey. More new recruits will follow.
He has been linked with a host of players including Glentoran's Sean Ward, Coleraine's Howard Beverland, Kyle McVey and Stephen Lowry, Portadown's Kevin Braniff and out of contract Cliftonville ace James Knowles.
They are on the radar along with others across the water, though Northern Ireland record goalscorer David Healy is not one of them, despite internet rumours he was on his way to Windsor. While there will be new arrivals, Winkie Murphy, Steven Douglas, Damien Curran and Gary Browne have left the club with Matthew Tipton and Ryan Henderson were put on the transfer list.
Jeffrey said: “This is another time for us to rebuild. We have to work to a budget. Every club is looking to reduce their budget so it is up to us to make the best use of the budget that we have.”