Manchester United legends reunited for Gault tribute against Linfield
Michael Gault is feeling grand. And who could blame him?
The Linfield captain will relive the greatest period in the club's recent history when the 2006 Grand Slam team gets back together for his testimonial match against a Manchester United Legends side at Windsor Park today.
William Murphy, Noel Bailie, Pat McShane, Tim Mouncey, Paul McArevey, Oran Kearney and Glenn Ferguson will pull on the Linfield shirt once again as one of the greatest teams in the club's history lines out against former Old Trafford stars such as Arthur Albiston, David May, Frank Stapleton, Clayton Blackmore and ex-Northern Ireland international Keith Gillespie.
Gault – along with Jim Ervin, Peter Thompson and Jamie Mulgrew – transcends the past and the present and he can sense a confidence and hunger in the current squad that can take the Blues back to the future.
"With it being a Manchester United Legends team we thought that it would be better, rather than the current Linfield squad playing against them, we'd try to get the Clean Sweep team together again," said Gault.
"The only two that can't make it are Alan Mannus – who has his first league game with St Johnstone – and Tim McCann who is on holiday.
"Looking back now I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of what was such a great achievement. It's only now when we look back we realise how special it was.
"I remember Glenn Ferguson scoring a hat-trick in the CIS Cup final and we were well ahead in the league, but I don't think it was really until Peter Thompson scored the two goals in the Irish Cup final that we realised what we'd just done and how big it was.
"At the time we were focused on playing, but now we have the memories and we can enjoy them."
History has already repeated itself. In the month before that Grand Slam season kicked-off Linfield won in Europe.
This summer they have made history in the Europa League and were within touching distance of a place in the third round of the competition when Gault scored a stunning goal against Greek side Xanthi last week before an away goals defeat.
New recruits Johnny Tuffey, Matthew Clarke, Sean Ward, James Knowles and the returning Aaron Burns have already made an impact and the warning signs are there that this new-look Linfield team will be a force to be reckoned with.
"I think the team is gelling really well and we are confident for the start of the season," said Gault.
Last week's European near miss, however, denied him his greatest moment.
"If we'd beaten Xanthi it would have been the greatest achievement of my Linfield career," he said. To score the winner in a European tie – I don't think I could have bettered that.
Today won't just be a big day for Michael. His parents, Jim and Nuala, are ever-present at Windsor Park and brother Ronan is set to fulfil a dream too.
"My dad hasn't missed a match since I was at Lisburn Youth," said Gault. My brother is going to play a part in the match and his two boys – Ethan and James – are coming out onto the pitch with me as well."