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It's a daunting task, but bring it on, says Waterworth

Andy insists Linfield will give Hoops their all as he aims to equal club's Euro scoring record

BY Alex Mills

Linfield ace Andy Waterworth admits his team's Champions League second round qualifying first-leg showdown with Celtic on Friday evening is a scary prospect.

The duels - with the return leg next Wednesday - have caught the imagination of football fans, and can help the Windsor Park club rake in a cool £1m.

David Healy's men warmed up for one of the biggest games in the club's history by suffering a 4-1 loss by Scottish Premiership side Hearts at the weekend.

It probably was a fair indication of what the Blues can expect when Brendan Rodgers' multi-millionaires roll into town.

"The general opinion of most people is that we'll be tanked against Celtic - we have to be realistic about it," said Waterworth. "But as a player, and a human, you want to do the best you can for your team, your supporters and your club. We'll be going out to give it our best shot.

"I'm a great admirer of Brendan. He has Celtic playing the type of football their fans haven't seen for a long time. So we know how good and disciplined we have to be to keep the score down. We are well aware of how big the task is.

"That doesn't mean we are going to be totally negative and give Celtic too much respect. We want to represent our club the best we can.

"But the bottom line is, it is a scary prospect, especially the way Celtic are playing under Brendan. Celtic are light years ahead of teams in Scotland."

Waterworth played a huge part in Linfield's treble last year.

He bagged a hat-trick against Cliftonville at Solitude on the final day of the campaign to clinch the Gibson Cup for the first time in five years and, just seven days later, repeated the dose, this time against Coleraine to bring the Irish Cup back to Windsor Park.

The Blues also picked up the County Antrim Shield earlier in the season.

Should he hit the net against Celtic, it would bring him level with Arthur Thomas, Phil Scott and Glenn Ferguson as Linfield's top European goalscorers, who have all bagged five. Waterworth is currently joined by Bryan Hamilton, Martin McGaughey and Sammy Pavis on four goals.

Waterworth said: "It would mean a lot. It would be flattering if I could pull level, especially against a team like Celtic.

"But it's really not about me. I may not even be selected, although I hope I am.

"But I'm certainly allowed to dream - that's what football is all about, that's why people are involved in the game.

"Personally, I can't let myself become carried away, that would be silly. We are all in this together. We'll certainly be giving Celtic our respect, but there is a fair amount of belief in our group also."

Waterworth spent a part of his career at Scottish side Hamilton Academical, but never got the chance to perform at two iconic venues - Celtic Park and Ibrox. He's hoping to put that right next week.

"It was a good learning curve for me," he said. "I was a part-time rural person going into a full-time set-up. I was uneducated in terms of football.

"I really enjoyed it and it helped me, but I did struggle, which was down to a bit of home-sickness. But I saw how big and passionate Scottish football is and the history of the club. I made my debut in a cup game against Aberdeen which was great.

"I always wanted to play at Celtic Park or Ibrox but I never got that opportunity, but hopefully that can be sorted out next week.

"I learned a lot playing with James McCarthy, James McArthur and Alex Neil, who was captain. They all became big names in Scottish football.

"It was brilliant for me to get a taste of that and I suppose if I could turn back the clock I would probably try to stay in the full-time game.

"Did I go over too late in my career? I just don't know. There are certainly some players over here who are not a million miles away and could compete in full-time football.

"Some have gone over and done really well, the likes of Liam Boyce and Niall McGinn.

"We played against Queen of the South last season and it was a good test to see just where we are. We are not professionals, but there are times that we can cause an upset and can compete.

"Celtic will be a different proposition altogether. I've played in the Irish League for most of my life. I'm now 31, so it's games like this that I cherish and, regardless of the result, I hope I can learn something."

Belfast Telegraph


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