Linfield are close to launching their five-year strategic plan which includes embracing a new full-time model and the club's general manager, Pat Fenlon, insists the Covid-19 pandemic will not derail their ambitious project.
The Dubliner, a hugely popular player with the Blues in the 1990s, has been helping the board formulate the strategic direction of the club over the next few years and the time for change is now. Even though the pandemic has posed significant financial challenges for Irish League clubs, Linfield remain convinced a more full-time philosophy will pave the way for greater success both domestically and in Europe.
With his considerable managerial experience in the League of Ireland and Scotland, former Waterford general manager Fenlon has drawn on all his expertise and contacts to help the Blues weather the Covid-19 storm and emerge from it an even stronger force. Larne, Glentoran and Crusaders have embraced a full-time set-up and Fenlon believes Linfield must move with the times to stay ahead of the pack.
"We will be releasing a strategic plan shortly for the next five seasons," said the 51-year-old, who won two Irish Cups and a league title at Windsor Park.
"We've been working hard in the background to put us where we want to be.
"It's not been easy in the current climate obviously but I hope to get it going as quickly as we possibly can. Over the last 12 months we have done a lot of work on it and are keen to get it started as quickly as we can.
"Things have changed over the last year and we have to make sure we have everything we need to bring the club to a full-time model. We've got our plans to improve the club and bring it on, we need to take that step forward and regardless of the pandemic we are committed to doing what we need to do.
"People think full-time is training every morning but there is a lot more to it than that when the whole football club is full-time."
Last season, Linfield were awarded the title after 31 matches when the pandemic halted proceedings back in March.
It was an outcome that left everyone deflated and there are fears of another premature finish this season.
Clubs are playing without fans while adhering to strict protocols, and Covid-19 testing began this week.
The testing has been welcomed but it costs money and the football authorities would rather not have to continue to cover the costs of the tests, which are £8 each.
“Everybody is hoping for the best,” added Fenlon.
“We want the season to be played out properly and I’m sure everyone is in the same boat.
“Hopefully we can get back to playing this weekend and the testing is a big help.
“It’s great for players, staff and officials, it’s an important step taken by the league and hopefully we can finish the season in the right way.
“What happened last season wasn’t what any club wanted.
“Last season is gone but we are still a football club that wants to play as many games as we can.
“The authorities may have decisions to make but we are ready to play as many games as possible.”
Every club has taken a battering in the financial storm generated by the ongoing pandemic.
Former Hibernian boss Fenlon added: “Clubs have suffered a big loss of revenue in this pandemic, like many businesses, and it has been difficult.
“Clubs rely on gate receipts and sponsorship and when that revenue dries up it is tough but there has been some help available and we hope all clubs come through this.”
As they adopt a more full-time model, Linfield must determine how they can keep on board playing staff who already have jobs.
Defender Josh Robinson left Linfield last summer to agree a full-time move to Larne.
“The full-time training brings Larne forward but at Linfield I always felt players were training largely full-time anyway,” said the former York City and Crusaders ace.
“There just maybe wasn’t a full-time structure in place and that was part of my frustration.
“You can’t expect part-time players to simply drop jobs and end careers. Linfield are champions so they haven’t been doing much wrong.
“If they win the league again, do they need to change anything?
“But it’s great for the league for teams to go full-time so we will see what they decide.”