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Linfield boss David Healy out to find elusive spark

By Stuart McKinley

Published 01/12/2015

On a mission: David Healy wants to stop the rut with victory over Carrick in the County Antrim Shield semi-final
On a mission: David Healy wants to stop the rut with victory over Carrick in the County Antrim Shield semi-final

David Healy was always prepared to come out fighting as a player when he was facing adversity and he is ready to do the same as he faces his first big test in management.

Just six weeks into his first managerial role, the Linfield boss is coming under serious scrutiny as the Blues are on their worst run in 18 years.

They have suffered four successive league defeats, against Crusaders, Cliftonville, Glenavon and Portadown, and that hasn't happened since March 1997, when David Jeffrey was only a couple of months into his reign.

He rode out that storm and went on to lead the club to 31 trophies in 17 years.

Healy has been down this road before. Even when he was hitting the back of the net on his way to a record 36 goals for Northern Ireland, he was coming in for criticism for not scoring more.

And that was after netting more than three times as many goals as anyone else in the country's history at the time.

Linfield will aim to snap their losing run tonight when they face Carrick Rangers at The Belfast Loughshore Hotel Arena in the semi-finals of the County Antrim Shield and like in his playing days, rather than wilting under the pressure, he has vowed to be relentless in his pursuit of success as Linfield manager.

"I am fully committed. I love this club, I have a lot of passion for the game and I look forward to the challenge," said Healy.

"I said when I first stepped into the job that I want to bring more success to this hugely successful football club and I will be trying my utmost every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of every single week that I am here to make sure we are successful.

"I will be trying 100 per cent in every single session I put on at this club and every single game to make sure we get this right."

Although the Blues went top of the Danske Bank Premiership after they beat Warrenpoint Town in Healy's first game, not everything was going swimmingly at that time.

The Blues have only won one trophy in the last three seasons, injury problems have ruled out key defender Chris Hegarty for the best part of 2015 and he has been joined on the sidelines recently by Stephen Lowry and last season's top goalscorer Aaron Burns.

As a feared goalscorer himself, Healy will be well aware that Linfield are extremely short in the striking department.

Guy Bates has only scored twice in the league in 18 appearances and while Andy Waterworth has hit 13, there are question marks over his ability on the road as all of those goals have come at Windsor Park.

There is no experienced back-up, with teenagers Adam Salley and Paul Smyth the other options after previous boss Warren Feeney was unable to bring in the players he wanted in the summer, with a series of bids for top target Daniel Hughes from Warrenpoint being knocked back.

Healy is already working on bringing in new faces when the transfer window opens in the New Year, but no matter what finance is available to him it's about getting the right players.

"It'll be interesting to see what happens in January," said Healy.

"The board have been supportive and very helpful with anything that I have needed or asked for and they have promised that they will look after me in terms of when it does come to January that there is money there to spend and it's up to me to spend it wisely."

Healy's inexperience has been pointed to as a problem, but giving young managers a shot hasn't been an issue for Linfield before. In fact, Roy Coyle was only 29-years-old when he was given the job.

Lifting the County Antrim Shield turned things in his favour after losing back-to-back Irish Cup finals and Jeffrey has always spoke with fond memories of the first medal he won as a player at Windsor Park.

"A game like this one against Carrick can maybe provide the spark that we need," said Healy.

"The County Antrim Shield sparked David Jeffrey and it sparked Roy Coyle, so if it was good enough for the two most successful managers this country has ever seen, it's good enough for me."

Whatever happens, though, Healy is promising to stay positive.

"There is no point being downbeat when you lose games of football. Life goes on," he said.

"I will be as positive and as upbeat as I can to the players and just hopefully the penny drops eventually, the bounce of the ball drops, we get a goal and go 1-0 up and you might see a different Linfield."

Belfast Telegraph

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