Linfield hungry for silver
Peter Thompson has been with Linfield every step of the way as they have gorged themselves on six doubles in seven seasons.
The 28-year-old is entitled to put his feet up and reflect on past glories but instead he’s gearing up for another formidable title assault.
In fact, while most supporters expect the champions to canter to another title, Thompson believes the chasing pack will be desperate to hunt them down.
Linfield’s rivals are jealous and angry — and their supporters would like to believe their side can wipe the smiles off faces at Windsor Park.
The motivation to knock David Jeffrey’s side off their perch has never been stronger but title races come down to quality and strength in depth and that’s why the Blues are hot favourites to retain the Gibson Cup. Thompson, though, is braced for a backlash starting at Ballymena United tomorrow.
“No matter what sport you are involved in, if you are a competitive person at all you will want to be the best,” said the Northern Ireland international.
“Teams have looked on and seen Linfield win the league and that’s bound to make them more determined to taste that themselves.
“We accept the pressure and the expectation levels and the fact that people will say we are favourites, but I don’t believe players and teams are defeatist.
“I think people like to put the pressure on us to see how we react and your character is always tested. It’s nothing new to us.
“A lot of it is people taking pressure off themselves and they do have ambition — more ambition than they would admit.”
Thompson, speaking at the Waterfront Hall at the launch of the Danske Bank Premiership, may anticipate a few titanic battles but he knows Linfield can steer the right course.
“It’s difficult to compare teams but in terms of quality and strength in depth this is as strong a squad as I can remember,” he added.
“But other teams have improved and I think it will be a tight race this year.
“Of course you never tire of winning and once you get a taste of it, you want more.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have been at the club during a very successful time. At Linfield second best is nowhere and that’s how we operate.
“Every team will have their difficult periods during the season but it’s all about how you minimise that and react to it.”
Thompson will be linking up with former Portadown hotshot Matthew Tipton to forge one of the most lethal striking partnerships imaginable in the game. The dynamic duo could terrorise defences but Thommo is also keen to highlight the sharp-shooting exploits of Mark McAllister.
“Matthew has had a bit of an injury but we have played together in training,” added Thompson.
“People can talk about the partnership I had with Glenn (Ferguson) but we have Mark McAllister as well who has been playing very well and that’s the key — everyone is going to have to perform well to stay in the side.
“The competition for places is as fierce as I have seen it.
“That can only benefit the squad.
“I certainly feel a lot fitter and stronger,” Thompson added.