More good days ahead for comeback king Stewart at Linfield
Little Jordan Stewart admits he is playing with a smile on his face again.
The 23-year-old was in a class of his own in Linfield's Boxing Day win over Big Two rivals Glentoran at Windsor Park, bagging one of the goals in the 4-0 demolition.
It has taken Stewart time to adapt to the demands of the Danske Bank Premiership after returning from Swindon Town 18 month ago.
He was blighted by a loss of form and a series of serious injuries which resulted in him being put on the transfer list at Windsor Park - his career appeared to be heading for the buffers.
Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for himself, Stewart knuckled down, worked hard and gradually played his way back into David Healy's plans.
His performance against his former club on Boxing Day suggested he is back to his best and there are good days up ahead.
"I wasn't in a good place a year ago," he said. "I don't want to sound like a sob story. There are people out there a lot worse off than me.
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"But it was a combination of things - I wasn't in the team and was struggling both on and off the pitch. I really didn't know what I was doing.
"I had to sort my life out and plan for the future after coming home from full time football. I also sustained a couple of serious knee injuries that required surgery. I really couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel which resulted in me being put on the transfer list.
"It's all about how you bounce back from your knocks. I know if I keep working hard I can't see why I can't have plenty more good days up ahead."
It certainly was a special festive period for Stewart. Not only did he get on the score sheet on Boxing Day, but his little daughter was three months old on Christmas Day.
"It was my first Christmas as a dad, which was special," he added. "My daughter Willow was three-months old on Christmas Day, then to score against the Glens really put the icing on the cake. It's days like that takes away all the bad memories.
"I though the team were brilliant. It's the biggest league game for any club, the crowd and the atmosphere made it special. I wasn't really in the game as much as I would have liked in the first half.
"But the game opened up a bit in the second half and I started to have more of an impact, as did all the lads.
"Some of the boys thought I didn't celebrate my goal too much. It certainly wasn't one of those situations of not celebrating against my old team.
"I had a great time at Glentoran, but it's only natural to celebrate when you score because it's a great feeling. I knew we still had a bit of work to do to put the game to bed, so perhaps that was at the back of my mind.
"There were a lot of tackles flying in, but it's something you expect. We passed the ball about really well from the back out. We've got the players to do that and it's great when it comes to together."
Stewart admits the Blues are primed for another battle when the travel across town today to face Barry Gray's erratic Cliftonville at Solitude.
He adds: "It's another massive game. Cliftonville always raise their game when we go to Solitude.
"We have to make sure we are prepared for another war.
"They are one of those sides you really don't know what you are going to get from them. But as far as we are concerned, we know we are going to have to fight for every ball."