Belfast Telegraph

Linfield remain a title winning machine

By Stuart McKinley

In a marathon league title battle that brings many twists and turns over the nine months it takes to decide which team is the best in the country there are many demands placed on the players involved.

It also takes many different qualities to deliver a championship. Some are in-built and ingrained in players and others are developed then instilled through managers and their work on the training ground.

Ability is just one of those qualities — and a small one at that. Hunger, desire, commitment, determination, attitude and character would all be on a manager’s list of the things they want in a player — many of which money can’t buy.

That great intangible characteristic, team-spirit, is also something that doesn’t come easy and is often only developed through the right kind of man management.

So when players, managers and officials from other clubs begin to point out Linfield’s superior ‘resources’ it smacks of being little more than an excuse.

‘Resources’ — a roundabout way of pointing to Linfield’s contract with the Irish FA which guarantees 15 per cent of the income from international fixtures played at Windsor Park — was put up as a reason in suggesting that there isn’t a level playing field in the Carling Premiership, but that contract existed in the 1990s, when Portadown, Crusaders and Cliftonville, as well as Glentoran, were being crowned champions and the Blues endured a period where they only won the league twice in 10 years.

It took more than resources — or money to put it another way — for those teams to enjoy their moments of glory.

And it was other characteristics that played a part in Linfield’s amazing comeback victory on Saturday. Five minutes away from a potentially damaging 1-0 defeat Paul Munster and Michael Carvill popped up with late goals to show that there is something else in the Linfield squad other than talent.

A win over Glentoran again tonight, this time at Windsor Park, will put the Blues in a position where victory against Cliftonville on Saturday would effectively wrap-up their fifth title in six years.

“Saturday’s win showed the togetherness that there is in the squad that kept us going right to the end,” said Linfield midfielder Robert Garrett.

“We showed our character as well in not giving up. Even when we scored the equaliser with four minutes to go we were still looking for the winner.

“We weren’t going to settle for the draw and we wouldn’t have been satisfied had we only left with a point.”

Garrett added: “A lot of the players who are at the club haven’t cost a penny and we are at Linfield because it’s where we want to be. We all want to be here because this is a club that strives to be better every season.

“We’ve beaten Glentoran twice in 10 days, they won’t want that to be three, so it’s going to be a very tough game for us.”

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