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Healy can guide Blues to success for years to come, insists Haughey

By Graham Luney

Mark Haughey has welcomed the news that Linfield chiefs are set to hand manager David Healy a new contract.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that the Blues wanted to hold talks with the Northern Ireland legend with the goal of extending his terms.

Healy took on the Linfield role - his first senior management job - in October 2015 and the pressure was on to deliver this season after the last campaign finished trophyless.

But on Saturday the Blues can clinch a terrific treble if they beat Coleraine in the Tennent's Irish Cup final and place that prize alongside the County Antrim Shield and Gibson Cup.

The league title triumph was a magnificent fightback, with the Blues even trailing Crusaders by nine points at one stage in February.

In 2015, Healy was handed a two-and-a-half year contract, but the way he inspired his players to hunt down the Crues convinced Windsor chiefs that the 37-year-old could awaken this sleeping giant of Irish League football.

Defender Haughey said: "It's not my job to talk about managers but, speaking personally, since David has come to the club he has been a huge help to me. I've signed a three-year deal and the manager has always supported me and expressed a desire to see me become even better. Hopefully that will happen in the coming years and we will enjoy a lot more success together.

"Every game at Linfield is a must-win and if that is not happening the manager will take most of the criticism.

"In the middle of last season we did hit a difficult time and losing both the County Antrim Shield and Irish Cup finals left a bitter taste. But the manager always believed we had it within us to get over the line in the big games and it was great to enjoy more success this season for both him and ourselves.

"I know David is a manager learning his trade, but his career in England and Scotland means he brings that professionalism with him and there's a lot of attention to detail in terms of the preparation for games and recovery, both physical and mental. He works on shapes and tactics and although a few people might have doubted him as a manager, they will take a different view now.

"He's proved he can win a league title and, while we will enjoy it, we want to keep winning."

The two big targets at the start of the season for ambitious clubs are the league and Irish Cup. Now Linfield have a golden chance to celebrate another double.

"No one wants a great season to finish on a flat note but that's not in our thinking," added Haughey.

"The league and Cup are our bread and butter, it's what we put the hard work in for. We know how good a player Eoin Bradley is from last year's final and we will do our homework on him. Coleraine have a good mix of youth and experience and it will be a very tough game as Cup finals usually are.

"I think it's a bit hard to believe that we could go on a run of 43 points out of a possible 45 in the league but we just took it game by game and no one gave up hope. There was always the hope that Crusaders would slip up somewhere and fortunately for us that happened.

"I think whenever we slipped up it was tough to take, but the confidence and determination was still there and it comes from the manager too.

"He demands we have that mentality and he stressed the importance of us wining our games and asking a question of Crusaders.

"Now hopefully we can get more winners' medals."

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