Stephen Fallon is repaying faith I've put in him, says David Healy
Linfield boss David Healy believes he has unearthed another midfield gem in young Stephen Fallon.
The 22-year-old, who joined the Blues from Swansea City in January 2016, has been the driving force behind his team's charge to the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.
It may have taken him two years to adapt to the demands of Irish League football, but it's no coincidence that the Blues are unbeaten since Fallon became an established member of the team - a run that now spans 12 games.
Former Northern Ireland striker Healy admits that Fallon has worked hard to claim the first-team shirt, keeping the experienced Robert Garrett, Andy Mitchell and Daniel Kearns on the substitutes' bench.
"Fair play to the lad, he's been patient," said Healy. "He's done extra work - you can see the physical change in him.
"I know there were a few raised eyebrows when I gave him a three-year contract last season when he hadn't really been playing.
"Stephen is a good player and has grown into the team - his energy, his passing and his quality are top drawer."
Healy insists the influence of skipper Jamie Mulgrew has also helped Fallon's emergence.
"The two central midfielders have been excellent," said Healy. "Jamie helps people around him and Stephen will learn a lot from him.
"I don't need to speak to Jamie during or before the game - he manages himself.
"Jamie has been the best midfielder in the Irish League for a good number of years. He leads from the front.
"He's a bit of a whinge at times, but that is fine.
"He's been at the club through many successful times and he is still as demanding as ever - he wants every ounce out of every player."
Linfield will be hoping to keep their impressive run going against Stephen McDonnell's Warrenpoint Town at Windsor Park today.
Following a horrible start to their league campaign, Warrenpoint have forged their way up to eighth place in the table, well clear of the relegation struggle.
"I really like the job Stephen McDonnell is doing at the football club," added Healy.
"We have young Eamon Scannell on loan at Warrenpoint, which has been extended until the end of the season.
"He's getting game time, which is important for him and for Linfield.
"He's doing well. I speak to Stephen regularly to track his progress.
"Warrenpoint may have had a poor start to the campaign but they have really improved.
"We beat them down there earlier in the season and it would be fair to say that we got them at a good time.
"I think Ballymena beat them six and we beat them five, but the club was very much in transition.
"But they later came to Windsor Park and left with a creditable 1-1 draw.
"They were well organised and well drilled on that occasion. We are under no illusions that this will be a very difficult game."
Although the Blues are sitting pretty at the summit of the Premiership table, are in the sixth round of the Irish Cup and have another two finals to negotiate - against Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield and Ballymena United in the League Cup - Healy insists his boys' feet will be kept firmly on the ground.
"We have a tough run of fixtures coming up, so it's important to stay focused and take one game at a time," added Healy.
"We are coming off a great result against Ballymena in the Shield semi-final in midweek.
"People will say it can't get much better at the minute, but we've won nothing yet.
"It's going to be a hell of a push from now until the end of the season.
"Ballymena and Crusaders are not going away, and Glenavon are still there too. It's all to play for.
"There is not much between any of the teams.
"We had to show a bit of maturity and mental desire to see the game out at Ballymena.
"We are by no means getting carried away - trophies are not handed out at this time of the year."
Linfield vs Warrenpoint T
Danske Bank Premiership:
Windsor Park, Today, 3.00pm