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Stoke result the ‘least of my worries’ for Linfield boss David Healy as another Euro tie awaits

Players get vital game time in friendly


Friendly fire: Linfield’s new boy Billy Chadwick takes on Stoke City on Saturday

Friendly fire: Linfield’s new boy Billy Chadwick takes on Stoke City on Saturday

Friendly fire: Linfield’s new boy Billy Chadwick takes on Stoke City on Saturday

Linfield boss David Healy admitted the result of Saturday’s friendly fixture against Stoke City at The Dub Complex meant nothing – his focus was on Thursday’s Europa Conference League second round clash against Borac Banja Luka at Windsor Park.

It’s the second successive year former Northern Ireland Michael O’Neill has brought his team to Belfast for a week-long training camp, and he certainly can feel well satisfied the way they went about their business in the blistering heat at the excellent Queen’s University venue.

Stoke City striker Jacob Brown bagged an impressive hat-trick – his first for the club – while Nick Powell, D’Margio Wright-Phillips, son of former England striker Shaun, and Steven Fletcher all got in on the scoring stakes.

Having made their Champions League first round exit when beaten by Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius last week, Healy, who blooded a number of his academy players at the weekend, has much more demanding issues to take care of in the form of his team’s Bosnian opponents on Thursday.

“Forget about this result, it meant nothing,” said Healy, who wasn’t’ frightened to hand young guns Ewan McCoubrey, Jack Montgomery, Josh Archer, Matthew Williamson and Leon Boyd, some game time against O’Neill’s impressive EFL Championship side.

“The least of my worries was the result . . . it was all about getting minutes into the legs. It was important to get certain players some game time, including the kids.”

It was also a chance for Healy to hand his new loan signings from Hull – Ahmed Salam and Billy Chadwick – a starting shirt along with Sam Roscoe, who joined the Blues in a two-year deal form Ayr United.

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Salam and Chadwick were unable to be included in the squad to face Zalgiris on Thursday night because their registration wasn’t processed in time. However, both are now cleared to face the Bosnians.

Healy added: “Both lads were unfortunate to miss out last week, but everything is now through. Sometimes, bringing in players from outside our own football association can be a challenge.

“Hopefully, they will give us a little bit of freshness and a little bit of energy. I’ve spoken at length with Grant McCann (Hull boss) about the players.

“I’m grateful for Grant’s help in getting the boys. Having adopted to a full-time model certainly helped. Grant probably would have been reluctant to send over a couple of players to a part-time environment.

“Now with the full-time training scheduled, it will give us a chance to prepare our own young players a bit better, but attract others from outside who, beforehand, we wouldn’t have got near.”

Healy admits will be another test against the Bosnians on Thursday night.

“I don’t know a lot about them . . . I’ve been trying to get as much information as possible,” he added. “It will be another tough 90 minutes. That’s why I wanted to get as many players as possible involved against Stoke.

“The three new signings got over an hour, and it was good to get a lot of our younger lads on – it will be a good experience for them.”

Healy appreciated the gesture by his former international colleague Michael O’Neill by bringing his team to feature in the ‘behind closed doors’ friendly.

“It’s probably a bit more difficult for the likes of Stoke to get to their preferred destinations like Spain or Portugal for a summer training camp,” added Healy. “For the past two years, we’ve had the chance to compete against them.

“I speak to Michael quite a bit . . . he was always helpful to me in my young coaching career. I know he’s always on the end of a phone if I need him. Looking at their squad and their fitness levels, he appears to have assembled a good group. I wish them well in the Championship this season.

“The game will certainly stand us in good stead for Thursday. It’s now all about Thursday’s game and the players who were missing at the weekend. Hopefully, they’ll be back for what will be a really daunting game.”

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