Linfield: This just isn’t good enough, says Bailie
After making more than 950 appearances for Linfield, Noel Bailie is a good judge of when the Blues are scintillating or shocking.
Right now, they are not pretty to watch and in a brutal and frank assessment of his side’s woes, Bailie admits he has never seen a Linfield team cause more embarrassment to the club’s good name.
The champagne which flowed after the treble double is a distant memory as the Windsor Park faithful find themselves choking on flat beer.
Linfield will always be victims of their own success and their problems will always be magnified and highlighted because they remain the biggest club in Ireland.
But the fans who are paying hard earned money in a tough economic climate to follow their heroes do not like what they are seeing.
The 3-0 defeat against Dungannon Swifts in the Co-operative Insurance Cup at the ground formerly known as a fortress, Windsor Park, has sounded more alarm bells among the Blues fan base.
But no-one is hurting more than the players and manager, David Jeffrey.
And as proud captain of the club, Bailie admits the players will have to roll their sleeves up and shake themselves into life before the Gibson Cup is given a goodbye kiss.
“I’ve heard the abuse that is being directed at the manager from the fans and they are simply showing the frustration which is shared by everyone,” said the 37-year-old.
“That’s what happens in life, people take their frustration out on others. But David (Jeffrey) can’t do anything else. He sends his players out across the line and if they aren’t doing their jobs properly they have to take responsibility for that.
“The players are not working hard enough and that has been clear over the last few games — even in our games against Crusaders which we won I felt we didn’t play well enough.
“Linfield must be hard to beat but we can’t say that anymore. Perhaps we should start being a bit more defensive in our approach but that is not a decision I have to make.
“We need to get our form back and stay in the hunt come January. The players who wear the jersey have to do the business — it’s as simple as that. We have given Spike (Glenn Ferguson) nothing to hit and only Alan Mannus and Michael Carvill I would not pick out for criticism.
“We have all been poor and we know it. Our league position does not tell the story of how we are not producing performances a Linfield team should be producing.”
Despite their County Antrim Shield success, there is no getting away from the fact that a wind of change is blowing through Linfield.
Influential players left in the summer, including Northern Ireland international Peter Thompson and no-one was ever going to fill his boots.
Injuries have also rocked the club and the new faces need time to adjust to life at the Blues.
But Bailie, like Jeffrey, isn’t a man who believes in making excuses.
“People can say there has been upheaval and there have been changes at the club but if you look at the game against Distillery, when we lost 2-0, nine of the players were at the club last season,” added Bailie.
“There is enough quality in the team to turn things around — I don’t think it’s a question of confidence or quality, the players have just been playing poorly and it has to change.
“We are letting the fans down. Teams will always take us on like it is a cup final but we have always fancied ourselves against most teams but we are being out-thought and out-fought.
“As captain I am the manager’s leader on the pitch and I don’t like what I am seeing but the players will just have to work harder until things are put right.”