Belfast Telegraph

David Healy can become King of Windsor all over again in Linfield hot seat

By Steven Beacom

David Healy, the King of Windsor Park, was back at the stadium where he made his name last night. He didn't just walk into the ground as Northern Ireland's greatest ever goalscorer... he did so as Linfield's new manager.

What an appointment for the Blues and what an appointment for Irish League football.

The man isn't just a football hero. He is a national hero transcending the sport he loves and as such will stir up huge interest in the local game.

People who don't know Cliftonville from Crusaders will now start keeping an eye on the Danske Bank Premiership table because of the Healy influence.

Wherever he goes here he makes people smile because of his heroics for Northern Ireland.

This is the man who provided us with a host of magical moments, from THAT winning goal against England a decade ago to the stunning hat-trick which defeated mighty Spain a year later. Both at Windsor.

There were other memorable efforts against Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Austria among his record breaking hit-list of 36 goals in 95 Northern Ireland games.

From 2000, scoring on his international debut, to 2013 when he announced his retirement as a player, he was the darling of the Northern Ireland public with his popularity scaling Everest-like heights, which in today's terms would be akin to the affection for Rory McIlroy, Carl Frampton and Steven Davis rolled into one!

Northern Ireland skipper Davis has just inspired the current side to the Euro 2016 finals. In achieving that fantastic feat, the team scored 16 goals.

In the qualifying campaign for the 2008 Euro finals, Healy netted 13 on his own!

It was a record then and still is. Even Poland's pitch perfect forward Robert Lewandowski could only match Healy's number this time around and the Bayern Munich striker is in the form of his life right now and worth £100 million. That's how deadly David was back in his day, leading to major Uefa awards and an MBE collected from Buckingham Palace.

And he did it all being a genuinely good guy, a product of solid parenting from mum Irene and dad Clifford at home in Killyleagh.

His club career never hit the same highs as international level, but he still managed to play in the Premier League for years and for two of the biggest sides in the world, Manchester United and Rangers.

And under some big name managers including David Moyes, Roy Keane, Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Craig Brown, as well as a certain Sir Alex Ferguson.

A student of the game, he will have learned from them all and he will be keen to put it to good use while in charge of Linfield.

He once told me: "I've played under some great managers and coaches and I'd like to think I've picked up details from them on how to prepare and motivate a team."

Healy had the opportunity to play for the Blues, who he has supported since he was a child, as he approached retirement but turned the chance down.

Being manager at Windsor Park proved too tempting though. He has agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal and is relishing putting his mark on the team, the club and the environment.

His philosophy? Simple really, 'to win football matches'.

Healy, who re-located his wife Emma and three kids from England to Northern Ireland in the summer, had been coaching at youth level for the IFA.

He will know taking up the reins at Linfield will present him with an even greater challenge.

For starters, the demands at Windsor for success are bigger than anywhere else in the Irish League.

Healy knows all too well he may be loved by Blues fans now, primarily for what he did with Northern Ireland, but that will soon fade if results are poor, though they will be astute enough not to blame him for last night's home League Cup loss to Ballinamallard.

So, is he up to the job? I believe he is. His football knowledge is strong, his work ethic will be unquestioned and his contacts list will be large when recruiting in January. Some may wonder if he is ruthless enough to cope in the harsh world of management. Nice guy he is, but don't mistake that for being a soft touch.

Healy can be tough, in mind and body. Just ask all those international defenders he destroyed.

Before taking the Linfield post he spoke to Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, whose previous job was of course with Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland. Look at him now.

Healy could go on to even bigger things too. First thing's first, though, the 36-year-old will want to be a winner at Linfield. He's already been King of Windsor as a player. Now his aim will be to wear the crown as boss. And at Windsor he normally hits his target.

Belfast Telegraph


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