Belfast Telegraph

'Some want baby steps, Linfield want giant steps': David Healy challenges squad to make major progress after European away win

Linfield manager David Healy
Linfield manager David Healy

Linfield boss David Healy says that while other Irish League clubs might aim for incremental strides, his team are looking to take 'giant steps' forward.

The Blues bagged their first European away win since 2014 when Kirk Millar's brace helped earn a 2-1 success at FK Sutjeska on Tuesday evening.

And with the Europa League Play Off stage, the final hurdle to a place in the group stage, now just a home result away, Healy's gaze is fixed on progress.

If they can complete the job at Windsor Park, it will be first time the club has won back-to-back European ties since reaching the European Cup quarter-final in the 1966/67 season.

It's little wonder Healy is challenging his squad, the reigning Danske Bank Premiership champions, to seal a place among club legends.

"A lot of people at Linfield talk of the great teams in days gone by and rightly so, the history that they created," he told the club website before referencing a 'baby steps' quote that has become former Linfield chief David Jeffrey's mantra at Ballymena United.

"I'm now asking these player who wants to come along on this journey? Other people talk about baby steps, little steps along the way, we want giant steps.

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"As a club and as a manager, I want these players to push, push, push. Giant steps, giant steps because they're certainly good enough. Anything I have asked of them so far this season, they keep delivering. Long may that continue."

Tuesday's two-goal hero Millar had never before scored in European competition. In fact he found the net only three times in the entirety of last season.

"Kirk, unfortunately at times, has found himself out of the team," said Healy. "He has certainly done nothing wrong. I know the appreciation I have for Kirk and what he has delivered in my time here at the club.

"There might have been a couple of question marks coming into the game, no Waterworth, Cooper, Kearns, Stewart. We changed the front four to get a result.

"(Niall) Quinn pushed up one - he never lets you down. Kirk was incredible, immense the distance that he covered.

"Bastien (Hery) was playing in front and Stevie Fallon was immense coming in again, along with the captain in midfield. Shane Lavery's energy was incredible. The headache that he gave the Montenegrin centre-halves, when you look at Shane you probably don't think he's capable, his size and stature but he was immense.

"It's a tough shift for him. We didn't really have a centre-forward on the bench to break it up for Shane after 75 minutes. His fitness and his desire and attitude, he was hungry.

"The back four stood up again to the challenge and the goalkeeper when he needed to.

"We wanted to go back to Belfast still in the tie and we've done that.

"It's important that we do have a boisterous, electric crowd. I'm sure they will be. Credit to the supporters over here too, the journey and the expense, and you saw what it meant at the end.

"I've always said how proud I am to manage the club but tonight has taken it to a level where the players wore their hearts on their sleeves, the badge with pride and we come away with immense credit.

"People said we got where we wanted to get, we got through a round, goal achieved. That wasn't in my mind or the minds of the players. These players believe that it's possible next Tuesday."

FK Sutjeska are the visitors to Windsor Park for the Europa League third qualifying round second leg on Tueday, August 13 (kick-off 7.45pm).

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