Belfast Telegraph

New signings mean Linfield have their best squad in years, says Mulgrew

 

High aims: James Mulgrew is keen for Blues to hit next level
High aims: James Mulgrew is keen for Blues to hit next level

By Steven Beacom

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew believes manager David Healy has assembled the best squad at Windsor Park in a long time.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow's Champions League clash in Norway against Rosenborg, Mulgrew insists the Blues are intent on building on last season's domestic triumphs and not go down the road they took after their previous title success.

In Healy's first full season as boss in 2016-17, Linfield won the league, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield. They followed that up in the next campaign with no trophies and a failure to qualify for Europe.

With the manager and players under intense pressure last term, the Blues claimed the title and the League Cup for good measure.

Since then, Healy has made two highly impressive signings, recruiting young Northern Ireland striking ace Shayne Lavery from Everton and bringing in classy French midfielder Bastien Hery from Waterford United. More are expected before the Danske Bank Premiership kicks off next month.

"I think it is the best squad Linfield have had in a long time," said club legend Mulgrew, who has been with Linfield since 2005.

"I know David, his staff, the club and ourselves as players want to keep moving up levels because the league is so competitive. You have to keep trying to move forward and we have done that with the players who have come in.

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"Shane and Bastien are excellent signings. I know it is early days but I believe both will prove to be big assets for the club."

Mulgrew (33) adds that he is pleased manager Healy signed a new deal with Linfield until 2022.

"It would have been a surprise if he hadn't been offered a new deal given the way he has recovered and we have recovered from that season we all want to forget about," stated Mulgrew.

"To win the league the way we did last season and with the football we played was brilliant. It was a shock to everyone else how we recovered and the manager has to take a lot of credit for that."

Midfielder Mulgrew has seen and won it all in Irish League terms, including multiple league titles and Irish Cups.

On the horizon for him and others at Linfield, however, are new beginnings with the Windsor Park outfit determined to go full-time in the near future. It is a path already walked by top-flight new boys Larne and Crusaders, with Glentoran, thanks to their takeover, also keen to do so.

"It will be fantastic if Linfield go full-time," said Mulgrew. "Other clubs have gone that way and we need to continue to be competitive and if we have to go full-time to do it then I'm sure Linfield will.

"It shows how the Irish League has moved forward. A number of years ago you would never have thought of going full-time."

Rosenborg won 2-0 at Windsor Park in the first leg of the Champions League first qualifying round tie and are expected to finish the job tomorrow night on home turf.

Defeat won't mean the end of Linfield's European experience, as they would drop into the Europa League with HB Torshavn from the Faroes their likely opponents.

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