Belfast Telegraph

Feeney backs 'ghost' Healy to haunt Liechtenstein

Euro 2008 Qualifiers

By Stuart McKinley

Warren Feeney last night sent a strong message to his former Luton town manager Kevin Blackwell when he declared: "you got it wrong about David Healy".

The Northern Ireland striker played just a few games under Blackwell at Kenilworth Road before moving to Cardiff City in the spring.

His international team-mate Healy is more well known to Blackwell.

When manager of Leeds United, he took Healy from Preston North End to Elland Road three years ago in what the player hoped was a move that would bring him Premier League football.

Although Healy did find the net 29 times in 111 appearances for Leeds, he got a reputation among the club's fans of only scoring goals when he played for his country.

Indeed, on one occasion, Blackwell said that Healy should wear a Northern Ireland shirt under his Leeds one because then he might score more often. But the reason behind his ration not being as healthy at club level as it is for the international team may have more to do with the former Leeds boss playing Healy wide or leaving him on the bench rather than sticking with him as a main striker.

Former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez knew exactly what to do with Healy and nine goals in the current European Championship campaign have not only taken the Killyleagh-man to the top of the continent's scoring charts, he has also put his country in a great position of reaching next summer's finals in Austria and Switzerland.

And with the second half of the series kicking-off at home to Liechtenstein tonight, Healy enters the Windsor Park contest high on confidence.

In fact, he has started this season better than any other, having scored twice in his first three games since moving to Fulham in the summer.

It would have been a goal a game in the Premier League had linesman Ian Gosling got it right when Healy forced the ball over the line late in Saturday's game against Middlesbrough, but even after that incorrect decision, Healy is proving his doubters who said he wouldn't score goals in the top flight wrong.

Feeney, however, isn't one of those.

"Sometimes players need a move, a fresh start and a change of scenery to find their best form again," said Feeney.

"David would admit himself that he hasn't scored as many goals at club level as he would have liked and that his ratio for the international team is better, but I always knew he would prove himself in the Premier League.

"I was really chuffed for him when he scored in the first two games and what a way for him to answer his doubters.

"I am really glad that David has started off so well because there is no doubting his finishing ability. His record for Northern Ireland is frightening, particularly over the last couple of years, and it is great to have someone like him in the squad who is capable of scoring goals.

"He has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water and I am sure he will score many more goals this season.

"Kevin Blackwell said once that David was 'a ghost in a white shirt' when he was at Leeds. He's not a ghost in a white shirt anymore now that he has moved to Fulham.

"He has done really well and he is the best striker Northern Ireland has ever had."

With Healy certain to start every game for Northern Ireland when fit and available, Feeney is left to fight it out with Kyle Lafferty for the other starting slot in attack.

That isn't likely to worry him too much as the competition for places in the Cardiff City has stiffened over the summer.

Not only has Robbie Fowler signed from Liverpool, former Leeds United and Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink joined the club just last week as manager Dave Jones targets promotion to the Premier League this season.

"I can't complain about the club signing good strikers," said Feeney.

"Jimmy came in last week, Robbie Fowler during the summer and it is great that the club has been able to attract two players like that.

" Robbie Fowler is a goalscoring legend and an England international, Jimmy is a Dutch international and has a great record too.

"Not many clubs outside the Premier League could have attracted players like that.

"I know Jimmy from my days at Leeds United too. I was his boot-boy and he still owes me a Christmas tip.

"Now that he has signed for us, I'll be making sure I get it off him now."

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph