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Grant McCann: Linfield can win the title without me

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Pastures new: Grant McCann said combining a coaching role with Peterborough and playing for Linfield would have been impossible

Pastures new: Grant McCann said combining a coaching role with Peterborough and playing for Linfield would have been impossible

Brian Little

Pastures new: Grant McCann said combining a coaching role with Peterborough and playing for Linfield would have been impossible

Grant McCann has left Linfield with a parting shot at those lining up to take a pop at manager Warren Feeney.

While the Blues boss continues to come under fire from critics, despite the team being second in the league table, McCann has praised his former international colleague and handed him a massive vote of confidence by declaring that the Blues can still finish the season as champions - even if it will take a miracle.

McCann's spell as a Linfield player has been cut short after only six games, but he saw enough since signing in January to tell him that overhauling Crusaders' lead at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership and winning the Irish Cup is very much within the capabilities of the team-mates that he has left behind.

After losing to Portadown in the league last Friday night, Linfield's fightback must start without McCann when they face the Shamrock Park men again tomorrow, this time in the last eight of the Irish Cup.

"I really hope that Linfield go on and win the league - and the Irish Cup too," said McCann.

"I believe that they can and I said to Warren when I was leaving that what he has done already is unbelievable.

"What he has achieved in his first season in the job has largely been ignored, because of the expectation level at Linfield and that's wrong.

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"To be second in the league, six points off the top with eight games to go and in the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup is phenomenal given the budget that he is working with.

"People talk about the money that Linfield get from the Irish FA and players' wages as if they have a massive budget, but that's rubbish.

"If Warren goes on to win the league it will be nothing short of a miracle - and he's still got the players to do it."

With Seanan Clucas leaving the Blues this week to join Derry City and Ivan Sproule on his way back after knee surgery, McCann's unexpected and premature departure leaves Linfield short of numbers in the midfield area.

Feeney (pictured) is likely to recall Stephen Lowry to the starting line-up to face Portadown, with McCann revealing that it would have been impossible to combine playing for Linfield with his coaching role at Peterborough, even though, at the minute, it is a temporary position.

The chance of a permanent job on the first-team staff at his former club was too good to pass up and no matter what happens, the 34-year-old has been given a guarantee of employment with the League One club beyond the end of this season.

"I am sad to be leaving Linfield, but Warren is very understanding of the situation and he knew when I signed that there might be something happening at the end of the season," said McCann, who admitted that his playing days are now over, after more than 500 club appearances and 39 international caps.

"The timing has obviously worked out differently and it's not nice to be leaving when the team is challenging for the league and the cup, but I hope that the fans understand that for my family and my own future, I can't turn this down.

"The chairman has said that if we do well then we will have a good chance of keeping the job.

"I have cancelled my contract with Linfield and am working without a contract at Peterborough, but it's not a gamble because the club and the chairman have said that there will be something there for me after the end of the season - I wouldn't have left Linfield without that kind of assurance.

"Much as I would have liked to, there was just no way that I could work with Peterborough during the week and then play for Linfield at the weekends. It just wouldn't have been fair on my team-mates because I wouldn't have been training with them."

Although he won't physically be at Shamrock Park tomorrow, McCann's thoughts will be very much with his old team-mates, hoping they can reach the semi-finals of the Irish Cup.

"Come five o'clock, when our game is finished, I will be checking my phone to see the Linfield result," said McCann.

"I know it'll be a tough game after we lost to Portadown last week and the pitch up there isn't the best, but the lads will be ready."


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