Carling Premiership: 'Race for title will be best ever'
One of local football’s biggest names has promised Carling Premiership fans that they are in for a treat, with Linfield striker Peter Thompson claiming that this coming season could be one of the best ever.
It’s the big kick-off tomorrow and around the country, the hopes and fears of fans that have been played out in their minds during the summer months will now become a reality and an albeit small glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the campaign will poke out allowing supporters to work out whether they will spend their Saturday nights celebrating or drowning their sorrows from now until May.
But according to Thompson almost half of those taking part in the league this year will have many more ups than down as he predicts no less than five teams challenging right to the end for the right to see their colours adorn the Gibson Cup.
Thompson, now back permanently at Windsor Park after a fruitless spell at Stockport County, knows how to deal with one title rival having battled with Glentoran in the past, but he is relishing the chance to go through the campaign with no fewer than four other clubs chasing Davy Jeffrey’s men in a bid for title glory.
The Carling Premiership’s European representatives, for the most part performed heroically this summer, with Cliftonville and Portadown in particular, winning many plaudits.
Linfield didn’t do too badly either while Glentoran at least got a draw in their second leg after a 3-0 defeat away to KR Reykjavik.
Thompson is expecting all four of those clubs to push for title glory and Crusaders, as well, which would make this potentially the best league season in living memory.
“The league had been much maligned in certain aspects but I think now more people are prepared to give it a fair go and certainly the clubs’ performances in Europe this year enhance that,” said Thompson. “It’s good for everybody involved in the local game that that happens.
“As well as that it has become a lot more competitive. Realistically there are four or five teams who you will expect to be challenging and you don’t get that in an awful lot of leagues really, in Europe and certainly not in the UK.
“That’s exciting for the fans and hopefully it brings more out and into the games because certainly at the minute there is a lot of up and coming young talent around who are worth going to watch.
“All this means that we are going to have a really interesting season and again, like it had been for the past couple of years, it will go right down to the wire. The difference this time is that I genuinely think that rather than just two teams fighting it out at the end, there could be four or even five. It’s that close and everyone should be really looking forward to it.
“I think the standard has got better in the past few years, the amount of young players coming through has helped that and I know that a lot more coaches across the water are beginning to take more notice of our league because it is a bit of an untapped market.
”I think we are in for a great season, and it could be one of the best that I can remember.
“Really it is just going to come down to who is the most consistent because teams are going to take a lot of points of each other this year.”
Had things worked out a little differently for Thompson then he could have been preparing for the big kick off in the Football League with Stockport County.
However, the lack of goals and a sustained run in the team, a horrifying lung problem and uncertainties surrounding the club itself meant that he has returned to Belfast earlier than he would have liked.
The striker is honest enough to admit that he would have preferred to have been still playing full-time in England but that doesn’t take away from his ambition to win even more trophies with his first love, Linfield.
“I hold no bitterness towards Stockport and the new owners, these things happen in football and once we actually got down to talk about it — I had another year on my contract still to go — it was all done very amicably and professionally and went through pretty quickly,” he said.
“Obviously I knew that Linfield wanted me back so from that point of view it was an easy decision to make but I would have still preferred that things had worked out differently over there.
“But, as I say, these things happen in football and I am delighted now to have things sorted out and I’m looking forward to the season starting,” Thompson added.