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Linfield want Warren Feeney to stay, says Andy Waterworth

By Graham Luney

Linfield captain Andy Waterworth says he hopes Warren Feeney rejects an approach to link up with League Two club Newport County.

The Welsh side want the former Northern Ireland striker to become John Sheridan's new number two at Rodney Parade.

Feeney is contemplating leaving Windsor Park even though his side are four points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership going into today's clash at Cliftonville.

County parted company with manager Terry Butcher on Thursday and former Plymouth goal-getter Feeney could soon be reunited with his old Home Park boss.

The 34-year-old declined to comment on the potential move ahead of today's battle with the Reds and Blues skipper Waterworth said his manager never brought up the issue in a telephone conversation yesterday.

"I spoke to Warren on the phone and he never mentioned it so I might give him some banter," said Waterworth, who leads the league goalscoring charts with 12 strikes.

"I hope he continues as our manager as we have started the season very well and I have a very good relationship with him. I enjoy playing for him as the other boys do and this Newport story is news to me."

Former Republic of Ireland international Sheridan left his role as Plymouth boss last season where he worked with current County chief executive Jason Turner.

Feeney was number two at non-league Salisbury City before becoming David Jeffrey's successor at Linfield.

The former Ashfield Boys' High School student was thrilled to take charge of his boyhood club but he failed to grasp silverware in his first season in charge and he has recently expressed frustration at players turning down moves to the Blues in favour of more lucrative deals with rivals.

The Blues can open up a eight points gap on Cliftonville if they beat the Reds for the first time in the Premiership since New Year's Day, 2013.

While Feeney's future may be dominating the minds of fans, centre-back Mark Stafford has no concerns regarding the depth of talent on the training ground.

"We are feeling positive about this season and being four points clear at the top is an early boost," said the Irvinestown man.

"Apart from the disappointing performance against Crusaders we have been very good and the competition for places helps drive the players on.

"The squad really is scary and there is so much talent around. Getting into the 16 is a huge challenge every week and especially when you consider one keeper will be on the bench leaving four outfield players.

"That gives you extra motivation to perform.

"It's a long season featuring 38 league games so you need that squad when injuries and suspensions occur and hopefully we are strong enough come May.

"I came here to win cups and league titles. I didn't come here to make the numbers up.

"I agreed a two-year contract and you never know how long your career will go on for, or for how long you can play at a club like Linfield which is chasing silverware. You've got to give it 100 per cent and make the most of it."

The former Ballinamallard United defender, who works for Northern Ireland Electricity, is rediscovering his spark after an injury plagued pre-season.

The 28-year-old added: "The start of the season was tough as I've had niggly hip and groin injuries which have frustrated me and it's something different for me to deal with. I wasn't fit for the pre-season or European matches but I'm getting stronger now and while still not near 100 per cent, I got 80 minutes against Warrenpoint and 90 against Glenavon last weekend.

"It's a big game for us at Solitude and a tough challenge as we haven't beaten them in two years (October, 2013). They are formidable on their artificial pitch which they are used to but we have a really good squad and that bodes well for the season.

"We have players coming back form injury as well, like Ivan Sproule, and while other sides might get weaker we should be getting stronger."

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