Belfast Telegraph

Fans can help sing Linfield closer to Europa League on night they battle with Ed Sheeran, says Healy

 

By Steven Beacom

David Healy is the first to admit that this has been a disappointing season for Linfield.

After leading the Blues to a stunning treble in his first full campaign in charge, there has been no league title success, no glory in the cup competitions and no European football secured yet.

Healy is well aware he cannot do anything now about the lack of silverware on the table this term but he and his players can finish on something of a high by qualifying for the Europa League via the play-offs.

Tonight they host Glentoran in the semi-finals with the winners meeting Cliftonville or Ballymena United in Saturday's decider which not only will bring the victors a place in Europe but also the much needed £200,000 that goes with it.

Both the 'Big Two' would have preferred the game not to go ahead at Windsor Park this evening due to it clashing with a sold out Ed Sheeran concert in the nearby Boucher Road Playing Fields but, after discussions with the PSNI, NI Football League and the IFA, it will kick-off at 7.45pm.

The Blues and Glens thought playing last night would have been the best option but the suggestion emanating from the Belfast sides is the Irish FA did not wish to postpone last night's Intermediate Cup final between Dundela and Queen's University at the stadium.

Regardless, what matters to Healy is that his team deliver a big performance against their fierce rivals, led, possibly for the final time, by interim boss Ronnie McFall.

"It is vitally important that we qualify for Europe. It has been a disappointing season and you can't paper over the cracks but like the other three teams in the play-offs this is our opportunity to finish the season on a high," explained Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

"I will certainly be making sure the players that we have fit are ready to go in the play-offs after what has been a disappointing league season."

Healy is asking for the Linfield fans to back his side every step of the way.

He said: "In the Irish League these days home form is maybe not as key as it once was and our home record hasn't been terrific but in a situation like this in the play-offs where it is one game rather than two legs, it is good that the match is at Windsor Park.

"We hope that our supporters get right behind us because their support can really help the team. It's important everyone, from the players to the fans, make it a hard place for the opposition to come to."

Healy has experience of end of season play-offs from his time in England and believes physical and mental fitness can go a long way to achieving success in this format.

"It's been a long season for everyone involved in the play-offs and all of the teams would have started out with the aim to qualify for Europe without the need for play-offs," said the ex-Manchester United, Leeds and Rangers striker.

"Now a big factor is who has the most left in the tank. It's my job as a manager to ensure that my team go out and work hard and outwork the opposition and perform well and make sure that we get the results we need this week."

David Healy was speaking at the launch of the 2018 NI Grassroots Football Awards organised by McDonald's and the IFA. The awards honour grassroots heroes from across Northern Ireland. David Healy is an ambassador for the Awards.

Belfast Telegraph

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