Former Linfield hero Lee Doherty says he could never understand David Healy’s doubters and he’s backed the Northern Ireland legend to take his managerial career to a higher level.
The Blues are desperate to tie Healy down to a new long term contract and it’s no surprise after he celebrated a fourth league championship in five years and the 2020-2021 league and cup double was achieved despite a punishing fixture schedule and the lack of supporters during the pandemic.
The boyhood Linfield fan was a phenomenal player for Northern Ireland and now he’s making a name for himself as a manager, despite learning his trade in the toughest environment in Irish League football.
With the Blues now operating a full-time set up and counting their Champions League riches, they are still the most feared and respected side in Northern Ireland.
Now the club want Healy to build on their progress with a new period of dominance similar to the one achieved by David Jeffrey and Bryan McLoughlin.
Former Linfield skipper Doherty, who won 20 trophies, including eight league titles, in 14 years at the club, says the Killyleagh man deserves more respect than he’s given.
“David’s done a fantastic job and I just can’t understand why he still gets stick from some people,” says the former Glenavon skipper.
“There will always be someone who has a negative opinion. He’s won four championships in five years and that reflects what Roy Coyle and David Jeffrey were able to do.
“Any side can pick up Cups but the best team wins the league.
“From the start of each season the priority for Linfield is the league title. Success will come along and regardless of your feelings towards a club when there’s an opportunity to better yourself you will take it.
“If you’re successful you will get these opportunities and David has made a name for himself through football.
“Clubs in England and Scotland will be looking at him and Linfield should offer him a new contract. He’s a Blueman, not only is it a job for him, it’s a passion as well.”
With Linfield, Glentoran and Larne going full-time with the finances to strengthen their squads, the league’s playing field has rarely looked more uneven.
“There’s a danger of a split now in the Irish League with the top five or six sides including those that are full-time and the others are trying to catch up,” added Doherty.
“Full-time football is not a guarantee of success but it will give teams a better chance in terms of fitness and that professional mindset.
“Linfield to me are the leading team in the league and going full-time is the right way to go but it has to fed on the European money.”
Linfield’s Big Two rivals are flexing their financial muscles and they appear well equipped to challenge for a first title since 2009.
Doherty added: “The Glens should be a threat because we are seeing them buy top players .
“Glentoran have the finance to strengthen but they will also need the European money to help sustain their progress.”
Meanwhile, Portadown boss Matthew Tipton has brought 25-year-old shot-stopper Harry Doherty to Shamrock Park.
Coleraine defender Howard Beverland is set to leave the club this summer in search of more regular first team football elsewhere.
Winger David Cushley has signed for Carrick Rangers after leaving Crusaders.
And former Cliftonville and Larne defender Chris Ramsey has joined Ballyclare Comrades.
As well as signing Jamie McGonigle, Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins has been boosted by James Akintunde’s contract extension until the end of the 2022 season.