Belfast Telegraph

Healy calls on his men to clinch the title in style

Will Linfield manager David Healy or his opposite number be celebrating at Windsor?
Will Linfield manager David Healy or his opposite number be celebrating at Windsor?

By Alex Mills

Linfield boss David Healy insists the champagne will be kept on ice until his team get the point they require to bring the Danske Bank Premiership title back to Windsor Park.

Their adoring fans may not have to wait long. In fact, they will travel to the international stadium today full of anticipation, knowing the Blues require merely a draw against outgoing champions Crusaders to get the party started.

It's often said the league table doesn't lie. It's very much the truth in Linfield's case. They are the second highest goalscorers and have conceded the fewest goals - it's the mark of champions.

Healy will not dare admit it, but the red, white and blue ribbons are already prepared to be draped on the Gibson Cup.

Although his team are 12 points ahead of second-placed Ballymena United - the Blues also have a vastly superior goal difference - the former Northern Ireland international wants to get the job done with a certain degree of panache.

"I've instructed the players to keep a low profile until we officially get over the line," said Healy. "Hopefully we will do our talking on the pitch.

"This is a big game, we would love to get it (the title) done and dusted. The players have earned the right to have a shot at it against the current champions - a team and a club I have huge admiration for, the way they have gone about their business.

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"It has been incredible what they have achieved, winning the title on three occasions over the past four years. I take my hat off to the job Stephen Baxter has done.

"But we now have an opportunity to dethrone them and become champions."

Even though the Blues are within touching distance of their second title in three years, Healy insists there is no added pressure.

"There is always pressure on us to perform at Windsor Park on any given Saturday," he said. "This one is no different. The players have trained well this week.

"We look forward to the challenge. The players are ready. We got a huge result at Ballymena United last weekend. We had a two-week break going into that game and I didn't know whether that would have an adverse effect on us.

"I wondered if it would be good for us at this time of the season, or if it would work against us. But it proved to be a good one and it came at the right time for us. Yes, the expectation levels are always there. The fans will be turning up hoping we get over the line.

"The players know we have a job to do - and hopefully they will go on and do it.

"I've told the boys it's always a better feeling if they take care of the job they have to do. Hopefully they will - that means not only getting one point, but all three."

Healy believes the hurt from last season when the Belfast team finished empty-handed in the trophy stakes was the driving force behind their title surge.

"Even more credit to them (the players)," he added. "We all hurt last season, there were a lot of question marks about this squad and myself, why am I signing this player or that player.

"But I had huge faith in the players we brought in, not only this season but the season before.

"It took them a little bit longer to adapt to what we wanted, but they have been incredible. Any joy they get, they deserve it."

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland women are on the look-out for a new manager after Alfie Wylie (left) was named as the Irish FA's first ever Head of Women's Elite Performance.

The former Linfield coach has led the team for 15 years, a period during which he has also taken charge of the under-age teams including the U19 side that hosted the Uefa Women's Under-19 Championship in 2017.

His new role will see him take responsibility for player development in Northern Ireland from grassroots up to the international team. A new manager for the senior team will be appointed this summer.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as senior women's international manager," he said. "I am proud to have managed my country and will have many fond memories. I am now looking forward to working in my new role and to continuing to play my part in helping Northern Ireland be successful going forward.

"I am passionate about discovering and nurturing football talent in Northern Ireland and I am therefore pleased that the Irish FA has created this role."

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