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Michael McLellan can make net gains at Blues: Smyth

By Graham Luney

H&W Welders boss Gary Smyth has tipped Michael McLellan to be a huge hit at Linfield, saying he's one of the best finishers he has witnessed in the Irish League.

Glentoran legend Smyth has played with and against many legendary strikers including Glenn Ferguson, Vinny Arkins and Gary Hamilton so when he places McLellan in that illustrious company, it is a significant compliment.

The 23-year-old has departed the east Belfast minnows and joined Linfield until the end of the 2016-17 season.

McLellan, a former Linfield and Preston youth team player, has played in local football's top flight with Portadown and Ballymena United but both of those spells were unproductive.

But his sharp-shooting skills really came to the surface at the Welders where he smashed in 74 goals since the start of last season and helped the club lift the Steel & Sons Cup on Christmas morning.

Glentoran never made a move for the Sydenham boy but his prolific goalscoring record - 47 last season and 27 this campaign in under 20 matches - was enough to convince Linfield boss David Healy to bring McLellan to the club he supported as a boy.

"We are obviously disappointed to lose Michael but the only surprise is that it has taken this long when you consider his scoring rate," said Smyth.

"It's a great opportunity for him and hopefully he can fulfil his potential. Players like Michael do not grow on trees. He's as good a finisher as I've seen in the Irish League.

"I've played against better all round centre forwards but when it comes to putting the chances away, Michael is as good as anyone. He's young, can still improve and he will learn from one of the best in David Healy."

McLellan said: "I'm very happy. As soon as Linfield showed an interest in me the decision was a no-brainer and it will be a pleasure to play for the biggest club in Ireland.

"When I'm on the pitch I want to put the ball in the back of the net and for the last two years I have fallen in love with football again and hopefully it's the same at Linfield.

"It's a joy to be working with David Healy also and hopefully he can help my all round game progress."

Blues boss Healy said he hoped McLellan would bring his ruthless touch with him to Windsor Park.

"He's only 23 years of age and is a big, strong striker who has been in prolific scoring form for the Welders, having scored 74 goals in just over 50 games for them since the start of last season," said Healy.

"He will certainly add to our striking options for the remainder of this season and next season and he has been allocated the No.10 shirt in our squad.

"I want to thank Gary Smyth and the Welders for their co-operation with this signing. They are a smashing club and they are losing a great player but they said they wouldn't stand in his way of this move so they deserve a lot of credit."

Northern Ireland Under-21s will take on Scotland in a European Championship qualifier on Tuesday, March 29 (4pm) at The Paisley 2021 Stadium, formerly St Mirren Park.

Jim Magilton's side lie bottom of Group 3 with one point from their five matches.

Northern Ireland Under-19 women, meanwhile, lost 3-2 to Wales in a friendly in Newport with Shannon Holloway and Hannah Doherty on target for the visitors.

The team is focused on the European Championship Elite Stage qualifiers in April to be hosted in Denmark.

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