Belfast Telegraph

Linfield boss David Healy: I want long, glorious reign at Windsor

By Steven Beacom

David Healy has spoken about his desire to remain Linfield manager for many more years. Just past his first anniversary as boss of the Blues, the Northern Ireland legend says he is enjoying life at Windsor Park and is desperate to bring trophies to the club this season and beyond.

Healy was a Linfield supporter growing up but believes his love and feeling for the club has significantly grown since taking charge in October 2015 after Warren Feeney departed to become a coach at Newport County.

When the former Manchester United and Rangers striker was appointed it was a huge coup for the Blues, though at the time there were some who suggested Healy would use the post as a stepping stone to return to English football, where he spent the majority of his playing career.

Healy, though, insists that he has designs on staying at Windsor long-term and making them the dominant force in Irish League football again.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's top of the table Danske Bank Premiership clash between Linfield and champions Crusaders at Windsor, Healy reflected on his first 12 months in management.

"There have been ups and downs along the way and the team has had good results and bad results and a few near misses in terms of trophies, but overall I have really enjoyed it," said Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

"For me to be given the job in the first place was a privilege.

"At the same time I knew all about the expectations when I came here and the demand to win silverware.

"It has been a great learning curve for me and I want to have many more years here.

"I feel like I have an affiliation with Linfield. It is a club I care about and, much like when I played for Northern Ireland, results and performances mean a great deal to me.

"I grew up supporting Linfield and never made any secret of that.

"Becoming manager was a huge honour for me and has given me a deeper understanding and affection for the club.

"I am so determined to bring success and trophies to Windsor and our fans."

Linfield have not enjoyed silverware since 2014 when David Jeffrey was at the helm.

Healy was close to ending that run last season when Linfield finished second in the league and reached the Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield finals only to lose to Glenavon and Ballymena United respectively.

Healy is well aware that trophies are the currency Linfield fans deal in.

"We can't go for five, 10 or 15 years without titles like other clubs in other leagues or I certainly won't be the manager at Linfield," he said.

"I've had a couple of transfer windows now and brought players in, in a bid to improve us as a team and a squad.

"The plan is to find a way of promoting youth, which is a big thing for our club, and having experience and blending them together to make a successful unit."

Two key additions to Healy's panel have been former international team-mates Roy Carroll and Sammy Clingan, who have both impressed.

"When I'm signing players I want those that we bring in not just to be a squad player but someone who will compete for a place in the team week in, week out," added the 37-year-old.

"When you can build a squad, competition is created and it means you don't just have quality on the pitch you have it on the bench too.

"I feel we are doing a lot of good work and there is plenty more work to do and I want to be doing it. I want to stay here as long as I can."

In the opposite dugout tomorrow will be a man who has been the boss at his club for over a decade and has achieved incredible success with Crusaders. Stephen Baxter (above), who was a respected Linfield front man early in his career, has won knockout competitions with the Seaview side and this season is aiming to lead them to a third successive title.

Baxter knows a victory over the Blues will put his men in a fantastic position to do that.

The Crues are in top spot and four points ahead of Linfield, who are their nearest challengers.

"These are the games why players want to sign for big clubs so they can be involved in them," said Healy enthusiastically.

"They are also games that I relish as a manager because you are testing yourself against the champions.

"No matter who Linfield play, home or away, whether they are champions or we are champions, Linfield are always expected to win the game.

"That is the expectation level that is at Linfield.

"Crusaders are a strong side with really good players but we have really good players too.

"There will be a buzz surrounding the match and once you are at the ground you will know exactly what it means for both teams.

"I understand the importance of the match with Crusaders. If you look at the league last season Crusaders won the title by eight points and we lost three of our four games against them last term.

"I know come the end of this season our games with them could be the difference this time."

While others will tell you that Linfield are the only team capable of preventing a Crusaders hat-trick, Healy ponders when that theory is put to him.

"One thing I wouldn't be is disrespectful to other clubs like Cliftonville, Ballymena United, Glenavon and Coleraine in terms of their title hopes because I think they have good players and they have their own traditions," he insisted.

"What I would add is that I said earlier in the season that whoever finishes above Crusaders will win the league and I stand by that."

To Northern Ireland followers who still sing his name on match nights, Healy will always be a hero. He cherishes that support, but these days prefers to focus on becoming a hit on the managerial scene.

So, in his first year what has he learned?

Healy's answer is honest and straight to the point.

"I have learned a lot about myself and how to try and deal with my emotions," he said.

"I get fired up on the touchline, more so when we under-perform and don't win. That disappoints me.

"Being new to a managing role, I am learning how to deal with the disappointments because they will come.

"People say to you let the Saturday go but young managers have to learn to do that and how to recover from setbacks.

"I believe I'm getting better at that but it is still tough.

"I'm working hard to get better in all aspects of management. What I want more than anything is to deliver success for Linfield."

Belfast Telegraph


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