Linfield keep faith with Healy but boss says he's in a fight for survival
Linfield yesterday said that they are backing manager David Healy to steer the club back to the top of domestic football but the Northern Ireland legend recognises that everyone at Windsor Park is now fighting for their future - including himself.
The Blues' season hit a new low when they were dumped out of the Tennent's Irish Cup at the quarter-final stage by Cliftonville at Windsor Park on Tuesday night.
Joe Gormley grabbed a priceless late winner to send the Reds into a semi-final meeting with Championship side Loughgall.
It means the team that romped to a triple trophy haul last campaign will have to rely on the end-of-season play-offs as their only route of booking a ticket to European football - and even that will be a big ask.
Obviously still hurting from his boys' latest failure, Healy was in no mood for excuses after witnessing the final piece of silverware slip away.
"The defeat was a real stinger, it was a sore one," said the Killyleagh man. "It was our last chance of winning a trophy, so it was gut-wrenching. One thing I will make sure we do as a team and as a club is improve.
"Even though some of the players are under contract, they are now playing for their future at this club.
"I'm certainly fighting for my future. It doesn't mean I'm coming under strenuous pressure at the minute, but I'm a smart enough person to know that if Linfield don't win trophies year in, year out, there are going to be noises in terms of people asking questions.
"All I can do is keep working to the best of my ability and keep motivating and preparing the players. I've been around for a long time and I've experienced some tough situations, but this must go down as one of the most difficult defeats to take - it feels like that at the minute.
"Managers always say you don't always remember the good wins, but you always remember when you lose. I'll certainly remember that defeat, even though I can't really fault the players' commitment. It will be one we need to use as motivation to come back stronger."
With Europe a long way off, Healy insists his boys can't start feeling sorry for themselves.
"I've had that sore feeling after too many games this year," he said. "It now needs to register with the players. When the big lights are on at Windsor on a cold March night, that's when the pressure is on - that's when you have to deliver. And I include myself in that.
"The way I see it is every game we play we are not only competing for silverware, but playing for our future.
"It should be a privilege to play for this club - I've told the players that. For me personally, it's a privilege and honour to manage the club - that's the way it should be for the players.
"Hopefully we respond in the right manner, whether it's on Saturday against Glentoran or whether it's at the end of the season in the play-offs, but one thing is for sure - we need to be better next season. It's up to me to make sure we are."
Healy admits his team's decline was down to a series of events over the season.
He added: "There were big moments, starting with losing Paul Smyth to QPR. We were missing Andy Waterworth for the first 12 weeks - he always has the ability of nicking us a goal when we need it. We also lost our skipper, Jamie Mulgrew, for important parts of the term - although I don't mean to be critical of the players who played against Cliftonville. And, only lately, we have been missing our first two established goalkeepers in Roy Carroll and Gareth Deane. In saying that, I thought young Alex Moore had a good, steady game on Tuesday.
"They're not excuses, they're facts. But when you bring in players like we did over the summer, you are still hoping you are good enough to compete."
Blues chairman Roy McGivern said yesterday: "We have already started planning for next season and the board will give David full support to recruit the quality players he needs to get the club back to where it should be.
"It is disappointing not to win silverware but I have no doubt we will be back challenging on all fronts next season."