Irish Cup Final: Linfield's Blayney has smell of success
Published 07/05/2011 | 00:01
No wonder Alan Blayney is smiling. All of a sudden everything has come up roses for the Linfield goalkeeper.
Not only is his in the best form of his career, now that he has put down his roots back in Belfast the 29-year-old couldn’t be happier with life off the pitch too.
Blayney’s form has really blossomed in the last 12 months — which he puts down to having his confidence boosted by Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington when he was handed two starts on last summer’s tour to the Americas.
That helped him sow the seeds of success which led to Linfield lifting the Carling Premiership title last Saturday.
“The season has gone quite well for me,” said Blayney, while others would suggest it’s been much better than that.
“The Northern Ireland call-up has been a massive part of that. It gave me a great deal of confidence and there’s been a knock-on effect this season.
“I can’t take all the credit, but we’ve had something like 20 clean sheets this season and without a doubt it’s been the best season of my career.”
The safest hands in the Irish League have also been cradling a baby since Blayney became a father back in November. Son Phoenix was born just a few hours before he played for Northern Ireland against Morocco — giving Blayney his fourth cap.
So nowadays life is so much different for Blayney, who played three times for Southampton seven years ago when they were in the Premier League.
“When I was in England I was always on my own,” said Blayney.
“My girlfriend would come over for a week at a time, but I was never truly happy over there and coming home was the right decision for me.
“People said I was mad to come home, but happiness is more important than football as is family and I’ve a son now, so I couldn't be happier.”
It would be no shock if clubs in England or Scotland were to cast their eyes in Blayney’s direction, but the answer would be ‘no thanks.’
“I can’t see me going back to England,” said Blayney, who combines his goalkeeping with driving a delivery van for the family business which is run by his girlfriend Laura’s parents.
“I’d a good time at Southampton, but after that I’d a bad experience in England which left a bad taste and I wouldn’t fancy living there again.
“I want to stay at Linfield as long as I can and win more trophies.”
And he also has plans to get those safe hands on the Irish Cup with victory over Crusaders in today’s final.
“Getting to lead Linfield out for an Irish Cup final would really be up there with everything else I’ve done in my career,” said Blayney.
“I have ticked a few boxes, but as far as achievements go, captaining Linfield in an Irish Cup final would have to be among the best.”