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Victory must always come first: Bailie

By Stuart McKinley

Noel Bailie would love his Linfield side to provide an entertaining spectacle for the armchair fans who will tune into Sky Sports for tonight's Irish Premier League title opener between the Blues and Cliftonville.

The Windsor Park captain, however, has just one priority on his mind - winning the game.

Linfield manager David Jeffrey is single-minded when it comes to being successful. He likes his team to play attractive and entertaining football along the way, but winning counts above everything else.

And Bailie will take the same approach by telling his team-mates to forget about the television audience that will tune in for tonight's contest at Solitude and make sure they collect three points.

"We're getting used to playing in live matches on Monday nights in the Setanta Cup, but they don't come around too often in the league, that's for sure," said Bailie.

"We want to put on a good show and play a good bit of football.

"It is important to try to put on a good show for the television viewers, but our attitude will always be that three points are more important than playing well, and we've probably said it a million times."

And three really is the magic number for Bailie.

He has claimed back-to-back league titles on three separate occasions during his Linfield career, going back as far as 1993.

Three-in-a-row has been beyond the Blues since they lifted the title six years in succession during Roy Coyle's dynasty in the early 1980s

Jeffrey's men are strong favourites for the Championship again and Bailie is setting his sights on a hat-trick - because the league is always the goal for the Blues.

"It is a long time since we've done three in a row; 20 years or so and before my time," said Bailie.

" It's what we are aiming for, it's what we set out for at the start of every season.

"When we get together for pre-season, our number one priority is the league and above all else we are hoping to win that.

"We've won the league twice now and while we'll just be concentrating on winning this one, three-in-a-row would be a great achievement."

Cliftonville threatened to scupper Linfield's bid to retain their title last season by completing a raid on Windsor Park on the opening day of the campaign.

The Reds ran out deserved 3-0 winners, but that only served to kick-start the Blues and they never lost a match after that.

Now, after someone within the Irish FA or Irish Premier League took the lazy option and reversed last season's fixtures rather than coming up with a new schedule, the teams meet again and that means Linfield will be on their guard to stop a repeat of that result and last Tuesday night's County Antrim Shield game when the Reds won 2-0 at Windsor Park.

"It's a tough test for us, a tough way to start the league, especially after last Tuesday," said Bailie.

"I felt we played ok without getting the rewards, but credit to Cliftonville, they scored the goals and no doubt they will make it tough for us again.

"They have two good strikers who are very mobile and good in the air.

" Although Mark Holland isn't the tallest, they tend to leave most of the aerial work to him and let Chris Scannell peel off and use the space because he is quick and a good runner with the ball."

Belfast Telegraph


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