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McAree: Coleraine players must take spotlight off me against Linfield

 

By Graham Luney

New Coleraine boss Rodney McAree accepts the spotlight will be on him when he takes charge of the Bannsiders for the first time this weekend but he wants the focus to be on the players and their challenge of stopping Linfield from going eight points clear of them.

The former Dungannon Swifts manager will naturally relish his return to the sidelines and there couldn't be a more daunting assignment as he plots the downfall of early Danske Bank Premiership pacesetters Linfield.

Coleraine made Crusaders sweat all the way last season before falling just short.

McAree now hopes his men can go one better this time round.

The 44-year-old watched from the stands as the Bannsiders were held to a scoreless draw at Ards last weekend and it proved to be a frustrating afternoon for the visitors, who were hungry to stay on the winning trail following Oran Kearney's departure to St Mirren.

After getting stuck in on the training ground this week, McAree's first challenge is a formidable one - silence David Healy's table toppers tomorrow afternoon.

"It's a fantastic game for me and one of the reasons why I wanted to seize this opportunity to manage the club," he said. "I'm looking forward to it but ultimately it's not about me, it's about the players and what they do on the day and the focus must be on what they do throughout the 90 minutes.

"Linfield have started well and only conceded one goal in the league which is impressive.

"They are well organised and drilled. They have added quality in attack with Daniel Kearns, Michael O'Connor and Joel Cooper. It's going to be a tough game and we will have to be at our very best to get something out of it.

"Joel has done well. I have watched him a few times and he looked a very good footballer when I saw him at Warrenpoint. For us the challenge is keeping those guys quiet for as long as possible."

The former Dungannon Swifts and Glenavon ace will be reunited with his former Stangmore Park comrade Darren Murphy, who is now coaching at the Blues.

"It will be strange when he's in the Linfield dugout with me in another dugout that isn't Dungannon Swifts," he added. "It is something to look forward to.

"Linfield had a very tough start to the league this year and everyone was questioning how would they start and what pressure would the manager be under but they have responded extremely well. They won at Glenavon in their opening fixture, beat Crusaders and drew at Cliftonville.

"They have picked up good points and have a little momentum but it's important we try our best to close the gap and claw back points we dropped last week.

"All the games are big and I understand that's a cliché. It's very early in the season and you don't want that gap to get too big. First and foremost, we are trying to close the gap and the games don't come any bigger than this one."

The Coleraine boss added he wasn't concerned by any talk of St Mirren chief Kearney raiding his old club for players such as keeper Chris Johns or striker Jamie McGonigle.

"We are in the middle of September so I'm not going to worry about that now," said McAree. "There's a long way to go until the window opens and there's a lot of football to be played before then."

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