Gary Hamilton has a message for Linfield fans — “don’t panic, your team will still win the league.”
The five-times capped Northern Ireland international knows all about expectation levels at a Big Two club but the former Glentoran favourite is refusing to subscribe to the view that other sides have closed the gap on the champions.
Linfield’s disappointing start to the season has even led to some of their own supporters questioning the title winning credentials of the latest crop of talent to wear the famous blue jersey.
David Jeffrey, as the club’s proud manager, will take the flak coming his way and while he won’t like it, Hamilton believes it will be like “water off a duck’s back” to the boss.
Jeffrey has been there and done it — he’s not only worn the t-shirt but bought the t-shirt factory!
But he’s operating in a highly pressurised environment at Windsor where the outstanding achievements of the players — in netting six doubles in seven seasons — has injected a crazy belief into some of the supporters that a title success is almost their divine right.
It never is — any success in football has to be earned and Linfield will be determined to flex their muscles again at Mourneview Park today.
After seven games Linfield are eighth in Danske Bank Premiership with eight points. After seven games last year, they were top with 18 points. But it’s your league position in May that counts and Hamilton, a title winner at Portadown and Linfield, knows who will finish top.
“When you are talking about a league campaign of 38 games the reality is that Linfield still have the best squad and they will win the league,” said the Glenavon boss.
“I’ve no doubt about that. They have the right manager to see them across the line and the players with the necessary quality, winning mentality and right attitude.
“I think they have been hurt by the injuries to Peter Thompson and Matthew Tipton because although they have other talented strikers like Mark McAllister, I think those two guys are natural goalscorers. As for David (Jeffrey) the reason why he has been Linfield manager so long is because he is such a strong character and he’s experienced these difficult periods before and come through them.
“People have said to me ‘I can manage Linfield and win the league’ but that’s nonsense. You need to have special qualities to do that. I can remember when I was at Portadown and Brian McLaughlin was in charge of the Blues team while David was suffering a health problem and they won 1-0 that day and became stronger and stronger after that.
“David has been a survivor. There is always pressure to get results at a Big Two club and it takes someone with the right mentality to be a Linfield or Glentoran manager.
“While other people have their own talents and abilities, the Linfield manager must be a strong character and David is that.”