Belfast Telegraph

Linfield stars' strong bond will be a real driving force, predicts Healy

Proud boss: David Healy is thrilled to have a tight-knit group at Windsor
Proud boss: David Healy is thrilled to have a tight-knit group at Windsor

By Graham Luney

Linfield manager David Healy says he's heartened by the sense of togetherness within the Blues dressing room.

Blues frontman Andy Waterworth has spoken of the "tight-knit group" at Windsor and Healy feels that positive atmosphere will create more magical results in Europe and on the domestic front.

The stakes are high for Linfield tonight with HB Torshavn in town and ready to fight it out in a Europa League second qualifying round tie which sits finely poised at 2-2.

The Faroe Islands side pose a real threat to the Blues' European hopes but Waterworth's double in the opening leg leaves them quietly confident of progressing to a third round qualifier against FK Sutjeska from Montenegro.

Linfield's new boys Rohan Ferguson, Ross Larkin, Bastien Hery and Shayne Lavery have settled in well, even with the big tests coming thick and fast.

It was important for the league champions to strengthen rather than stand still, and Healy is encouraged by the spirit and morale within the camp.

"I think the players are in a good place and the squad has improved immensely," said Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

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"The new players have featured for the first team and it's a nice reaction we have got from them.

"We have had a few away trips and this is a tight-knit group.

"Andy has spoken about how close the group has become in the last six weeks and that's a huge positive for Europe and our domestic campaign.

"I think every manager wants to keep a close-knit group.

"Our players have gelled really well and it's important the experienced players like Jamie Mulgrew, Jimmy Callacher and Andy Waterworth help embrace and encourage the new players.

"That's been a huge plus for me to see the feelgood factor created by the senior and new players. The lads have gelled well together and it's a really good group."

Healy, who has called on the fans to roar his side onto victory, says the players must turn up tonight and show their mettle.

"Looking back and reflecting on the game, you have to give Torshavn respect. They were probably better than a lot of people gave them credit for," added the Blues boss.

"We watched their 2-2 draw with Helsinki and knew they were a capable side.

"I knew they would put in a solid performance but despite the late goal we conceded, I felt we can play a lot better.

"We were poor for large parts of the game and in that sense a 2-2 scoreline is pleasing. We don't underestimate Faroe Islands teams, they deserve our respect as they are a decent side.

"Hopefully the fans are in good voice and get right behind the team."

This time last year, Linfield were kicking their heels while others fought on the European stage.

Healy added: "Last season we missed out on European football which gave us longer in pre-season to prepare.

"It was a slower build-up, but this time we have been thrust into it with a lot of travelling.

"European football gives you different experiences in different environments.

"It's always important that you strengthen, and we have changed players as well as backroom staff.

"When you bring players in it's important they make a good impression, and Ross Larkin was immense making his debut in a tough environment in Rosenborg.

"The other players have done well and Rohan Ferguson kept us in the first game with outstanding saves. As a manager, you want players to live up to expectations, and I'm pleased they have settled in quickly."

Waterworth's double in the first leg made him the club's all-time leading scorer in Europe on six.

"Andy's always been in great form for the majority of the time I've been at the club," said Healy.

"He gives you goals, experience, know-how and leadership. He's a big player for me."

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