Belfast Telegraph

David Healy's wise words ignite Linfield's title joy

Cliftonville 1 Linfield 3

By Alex Mills

David Healy admitted his half time team talk at Solitude on Saturday was his most important ever.

The champagne was still very much on ice as Linfield's performance dropped well short of the standard required of a team expected to lift the Danske Bank Premiership title for the first time in five years.

He may be still classed as a rookie boss, but Healy played under some iconic managers in his days at Manchester United, Leeds United, Fulham and Rangers.

Having conceded an early goal - Daniel Hughes headed battling Cliftonville into the lead - the Blues looked disjointed, nervous and simply appeared to lack ideas.

And, just to crank up the pressure, news filtered through that second placed Crusaders - two points behind - were winning 4-0 against Glenavon a few miles down the road at Seaview

However, Healy worked his magic over a half time cuppa with his words of wisdom. Within 60 seconds of the restart, Andy Waterworth fired in an equaliser and the Blues were up and running.

The 30-year-old struck again with a devastating solo strike before completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot with half an hour left on the clock. The blue ribbons could at last be tied to the Gibson Cup.

"I don't mind admitting it was the most important team talk I've given as a boss," said a beaming Healy afterwards.

"But the credit goes to the players. They had the mentality to get us over the line.

"They turned in an immense second half display, just as they did the previous week at Coleraine.

"I firmly believe they are the fittest team in the league because they work so hard during the week in training.

"When crunch came to crunch, especially during the games in the split, we proved we are the best and fittest team. They showed great guts and determination to get us where we want to be."

The Blues had just completed one of the greatest ever comebacks to pinch the title from under the noses of Crusaders, who led the table from day one and held a nine point advantage at one time.

Healy added: "I always had hope. I try never to give an inch in terms off admitting we were out of it.

"Fair play to Crusaders. People will question when and how they lost the title, but the bottom line is we won the most games, we've lost the least number of games, we've scored the most goals and we conceded less goals than any other team.

"We have a lot of heroes in the dressing room and I can't thank them enough.

"Their commitment and their bottle was questioned. They came under scrutiny when we drew with Portadown at Windsor back in February - we were written off. We were apparently in crisis.

"But they stood up to be counted. That made me feel proud to be their manager. And it proved we had the right formula to bring success to the club."

Healy is now determined to make this the start of another golden era for the Blues, admitted he is 'privileged' to be at the helm of the country's biggest club.

"Nothing compares to this," he said as he gazed at the Gibson Cup.

"I've made no secret of the fact of how much Linfield meant to me since I was appointed manager.

"I would like the thank the Board for putting their trust in me by giving me the honour and privilege of managing this great club.

"They put me in charge when some other clubs would not have taken the risk. Anything that I've needed, wanted or asked for, the Board have been more than supportive.

"I shook the hand of every one of them after the game. Hopefully, they'll go home feeling justified that they gave me the job."

CLIFTONVILLE: Burke, McGovern, Ives, Ramsey, Curran, Garrett, M Donnelly, Hughes, Winchester, J Donnelly, Cosgrove. Subs: Bonner (Hughes, 65 mins), Lavery (M Donnelly, 65 mins), McNicholl (Winchester, 65 mins), Reynolds, Nelson.

LINFIELD: Carroll, Stafford, Haughey, Callacher, Waterworth, Lowry, Burns, M Clarke, Casement, Mulgrew, Quinn. Subs: Stewart (Burns, 76 mins), Millar (Casement, 81 mins), Ward (Waterworth, 87 mins), Carson, Deane.

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