Linfield boss David Healy proud of Blues' resilience
David Healy has won his first trophy as Linfield manager.
And while the Belleek Manager of the Month award may not have been top of his wishlist when he took the job back in October, it will do for starters. Particularly as it comes just five weeks after the Blues were going through their worst league run in 18 years.
Now, after a nightmare November in which they lost to Crusaders, Cliftonville, Glenavon and Portadown, Linfield are unbeaten in six games, which, after the Crues lost to the Blues at Windsor Park on New Year's Day, makes them the form team in the Danske Bank Premiership.
Hence Healy getting the top boss award.
Few would have seen that coming at the end of November, but Healy himself believed it was possible even after that 2-0 loss at Portadown - which, as it turns out, was their last defeat.
After the match that day, he said: "Linfield will always bounce back. We will rise again.
"I don't think I'll be up for Manager of the Month in November, but hopefully December, January or February - because I will be trying 100 per cent every session that I put on and every single game to make sure we get this right."
And get it right he has.
After starting the month with a win that ended Coleraine's 10-match unbeaten run in the league, Linfield beat Carrick Rangers to reach the County Antrim Shield semi-final and then ended it by winning the Boxing Day Big Two battle with Glentoran at The Oval.
Beating Crusaders on New Year's Day was just the icing on the cake - and possibly the first step towards winning January's award.
"The players have responded magnificently since November, so they take a lot of credit out of this," said Healy, who will face old friend Glenn Ferguson when Linfield meet Ballymena United in the Irish Cup fifth round on Saturday.
"I say to them every week, especially after the big wins against Glentoran and Crusaders, that we try to keep improving week in, week out and I think the players have been doing that.
"They have responded and stood up. It's been a while since we've stood up physically to Crusaders and I think we did that on New Year's Day."
Healy was well aware of the ability in his squad from day one. The frustration for him was that after winning three of his first four games in charge, the potential simply wasn't being fulfilled in the weeks that followed.
Linfield were falling just the wrong side of the fine lines that exist throughout football, but one result changed that - when they managed to grind out a 1-0 win against Coleraine.
"I knew, even in the November games, what was there," he said.
"We deserved to lose against Crusaders, we were poor.
"I don't think we should have lost the game against Cliftonville, I don't think we should have lost the game against Glenavon and we certainly didn't deserve to lose at Portadown.
"When you analyse the games - and I watch all the games through two or three times before I speak to the players on Monday or Tuesday - I knew we weren't that far off.
"It was about keeping going, getting the confidence back into the team and I think we did that.
"It was an okay performance going into the month against Coleraine, which was a big performance. The players were nervy for the first-half, but we came out in the second-half and Jimmy Callacher scored a big goal for us."
After only retiring in 2013, having scored a record 36 goals in 95 international appearances, it was obvious that Healy lacked managerial experience, although the criticism levelled at him that he didn't know enough about the Irish League or the players in it is well off the mark. You only have to listen to him speak for a short time to get proof of that.
His dedication to the job and the quest to bring silverware back to Linfield can't be questioned though as he strives to get even better.
"I've heard even experienced coaches saying that you take a defeat worse than you enjoy the wins and it's true," said Healy.
"I was humiliated in November, for me to be manager of this club to see the points that we were dropping and the games that we were losing.
"Even now, after beating Glentoran and Crusaders, I will watch the game and speak to the players and hopefully we can pick up on bits that we can improve on or things that we've done well from the previous week.
"I am always looking for ways to improve, not only me and if I didn't want to improve I wouldn't have taken the job."