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Criticism of Linfield boss David Healy was too severe, says Ervin

By Graham Luney

Jim Ervin believes Linfield manager David Healy came in for some harsh criticism when the Blues endured a turbulent November.

The Windsor Park chief had to rally his troops after league defeats to Crusaders, Cliftonville, Glenavon and Portadown - the first time since March 1997 that Linfield had lost four league games on the bounce.

A 1-1 draw at home to Ballinamallard United in December sounded alarm bells again but a County Antrim Shield semi-final victory over Carrick Rangers changed the atmosphere at Windsor and league wins over Ballymena United, Glentoran and Crusaders silenced the critics.

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer is now clutching the Manager of the Month gong for December and he's smiling again ahead of tomorrow's home Irish Cup fifth round clash with Ballymena United and Tuesday night's reunion in the County Antrim Shield final.

United skipper Ervin, who lifted the glittering prize on four occasions during a glorious nine-year spell at Linfield, says he was surprised at some of the critcism hurled at Healy.

"David took some flak when things weren't going well at Linfield but I felt some of it was unfair," said the 30-year-old, a boyhood Blues fan.

"He had just come into the job, inherited a team from Warren (Feeney) and needed to get his ideas across to the players.

"Managers might not get time at Linfield and that's a concern but the team has turned it around and their confidence is high after beating Crusaders.

"Linfield have gone through a similar experience to ourselves as they had a tough spell and come out of it with David winning Manager of the Month for December.

"Things can change in football and teams can come out of bad spells.

"Some people will think it's strange that Linfield haven't won a trophy in three years but you have to give credit to other clubs like Cliftonville and Crusaders and the superb run the Blues had was always going to end at some point.

"Six doubles in seven years was incredible but you can't keep going like that forever.

"That dominance was always going to come to an end at some point but Linfield will be hungry to get back to the top again under David."

Now a proud Sky Blues skipper, Ervin's hunger for medals has never diminished.

He could write a book on his Irish Cup adventures with Linfield and United, containing the full range of emotions.

"I suffered a cruciate injury in the Irish Cup Final against Glenavon and that's part and parcel of the game," said the Belfast man.

"I believe you need to suffer those lows to really enjoy the highs when they come.

"It's a fantastic feeling reaching a final but there's no point in losing them, no-one wants to know what losing a cup final feels like.

"Cliftonville beat us in the League Cup final and we lost the Irish Cup final to Glenavon so all you can do is learn from those experiences and put things right when the next final comes."

Glenn Ferguson's side defeated Linfield en route to the 2014 final and they will have to repeat that trick at Windsor tomorrow to keep their 2016 Cup dream alive.

"The Irish Cup is a big prize for all the clubs and you want to make the final and have a chance of playing in front of a big crowd," added Ervin.

"We beat Linfield at Windsor on the way to the 2014 final after I had just moved to Ballymena United and if you want to go all the way in the competition I think you have to get the better of these sides along the way.

"There's the possibility of taking your eye off the ball against a so called lesser team but that won't happen against Linfield. We'll have to be on our mettle to get through.

"But we are confident, too, so we have two cracking games coming up. If we perform we can cause any team problems.

"There's a lot of experience in this United side, a lot of winners and those players want more medals and memories."

Belfast Telegraph


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