Gault back for Linfield and going for league glory
From the international stage to the Linfield wilderness, Michael Gault has experienced the extreme highs and lows football has to offer.
The Blues midfield maestro made his Northern Ireland debut against Georgia almost three years ago and his career was on an upward curve.
A Player of the Year accolade soon followed, but niggling injuries and a loss of form quickly smashed his self-belief to pieces and the Lisburn-man even found himself on the fringes of the first-team.
In recent months, however, the 27-year-old has got back to his best and his match-winning goal against Glenavon on Tuesday night edged the Windsor Park club closer to a historic 50th title — not that anyone on the inside will echo the belief of most Irish League observers.
“It does get frustrating when people say the league is over already, but we can’t afford to start believing it,” said Gault.
“Like we have done in recent years, we’ll continue to focus on doing our own jobs and other people can say what they like.
“Of course we are in the position every other club would like to be in, I’d be a liar if I said we weren’t, but that just means that every team will lift their game against us because we are there to be shot at.
“There’s always pressure at Linfield; we know what is expected and the last week or so has been a major confidence booster to everyone at the club.
“Glentoran and Cliftonville had beaten us recently in big games so we wanted to put that right. Then Glenavon were coming off the back of a bad result and did very well against us and could have got a point.”
Gault’s displays this season have earned rave reviews and after bagging his second goal of the season, he is hoping to develop that side of his game between now and the end of the campaign — starting at home to Ballymena United tomorrow.
He said: “I give myself a hard time when things aren’t going well, but I am playing with confidence at the minute.
“I struggled with an ankle injury for a while, but now I’m back in the team and feel like I am contributing.
“Scoring against Glenavon was also a big boost for me. I want to get the ball more in those sorts of areas and there’s no reason why I can’t be chipping in more.
“I’m forever getting reminded of the hat-trick I scored against Lisburn Distillery, but that feels like a long time ago now.
“I was giving Robert Garrett abuse when he missed a similar effort so when the ball dropped to me he told me to smash it and he was the first to jump on me when it hit the back of the net.
“David Jeffrey has us up for every game. I know I have to keep performing like this or someone else will take my place.
“Jamie Mulgrew is on the bench chomping at the bit at the moment and myself at Robert Garrett need to stay on top of our game.
“Jamie will know he has to keep showing what he can do to keep the pressure on us and that’s the motivation that makes us as good as we can be.”
Ballymena come to Windsor Park having lost striker Richard Gibson to Glentoran, but former Linfield favourite Paul McAreavey has joined Roy Walker’s men, along with young Blues striker Aaron Boyd on-loan.
“We drew 3-3 with them at the Showgrounds earlier in the season and to be honest, we were maybe a little bit fortunate to come away with a point that day” admitted Gault.
“Richard Gibson did well in that game, but he has just moved to Glentoran so that will be a loss to them.
“They also have Gary McCutcheon and Andy Smith up-front who are more than capable of hurting any team, but if we keep doing what we are good at, then hopefully that will be enough to win the game.”