Back-to-back Manager of the Month David Healy hails Linfield's united dressing room
Linfield boss David Healy has hailed the champions' team spirit ahead of their tough live TV assignment at Crusaders tomorrow night.
The Crues may be setting the pace in the Danske Bank Premiership title race but the Blues are on the charge and a win at Seaview would leave them only four points behind the leaders with two games in hand.
Linfield went goal crazy against Glenavon last weekend, smashing in seven without reply, and they are brimming with confidence as they head to the Shore Road for the clash in front of the BBC cameras.
Healy, who has claimed back-to-back Manager of the Month awards from the Northern Ireland football writers, feels a strong sense of togetherness in the Windsor Park dressing room is producing results.
"We have always had good players here and the pleasing thing for me is that we have a united dressing room, the players are playing for each other, the club, myself and my staff," said Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.
“Every opportunity they get, they are performing and doing well. When you bring new players to the club you want them to integrate straight away, and that can be easy when you have experienced players like Andy Waterworth, Jimmy Callacher, Mark Stafford, Jamie Mulgrew, Kirk Millar, Matty Clarke and Niall Quinn.
“These lads have been here forever and that makes it easy for the new lads to settle. The players have each other’s back.”
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There’s plenty of smiles at Windsor after a strong start to the campaign. After clinching the league title and League Cup last season, the feel-good factor has been maintained by a powerful showing in Europe when the group stages of the Europa League came agonisingly close.
And as European hangovers go, the Blues will take this every time. September brought six wins on the spin, including big league victories over Cliftonville, Glentoran, Carrick Rangers and Glenavon.
But it hasn’t always been a bed of roses for Healy and his men. The miserable 2017-2018 campaign, when the trophy cabinet remained locked, will never be forgotten.
“I always assessed my own performance when I was a player and you learn a lot about yourself,” added Healy. “The tough times at Windsor can be tougher than anywhere else I can imagine.
“The players will have learned that they needed a bit more steel about them. It’s never nice to have a season like we had but sometimes in the depths of despair you find out more about yourself, individually and collectively.
“I learned a lot about myself as a manager and I would not want those times to return. The players are in a good place and hopefully we can keep on winning games.”
Healy knows nothing can ever be taken for granted in this game, but his players’ impressive form leaves him feeling confident about the challenges ahead.
“There was a thought we might struggle with talk of a European hangover but that wasn’t something I anticipated,” he added.
“We’ve had tough games, some away from home, and it was a big achievement to shut out Glentoran, Glenavon and Cliftonville.
“The players and staff have dug in as we have done a lot of travelling. Although I am picking up this award, the staff and players deserve huge credit in how they have conducted their business.”
The Crusaders v Linfield battles are not title deciders at this stage of the season but they remain vitally important for two sides with their sights firmly on the Gibson Cup.
“There are a lot of tough away venues but challenge-wise, Crusaders have been the flag bearers in the league and they deserve huge credit for the way they have and continue to win trophies,” said Healy. “Last season they won the County Antrim Shield and Irish Cup yet it’s still claimed they had a poor season. Two seasons ago I wish we had that poor a season! Mentally, they find a way to dig out top performances and we expect a tough test.”