Belfast Telegraph

Summer football is not a magic formula for European glory, says Linfield's David Healy

 

Linfield manager David Healy
Linfield manager David Healy

By Graham Luney

Linfield manager David Healy believes full-time football should make his team stronger but he feels summer football will not guarantee European success.

Clubs are considering backing a move to switch the Danske Bank Premiership season to the summer months to give sides a greater competitive edge in European battles but Healy says no-one can be 100% certain it will produce results.

The Blues are working toward implementing a full-time structure to make them a more formidable force domestically and in Europe but Northern Ireland's record goalscorer doesn't share the view that a calendar switch will fire Irish League clubs to glory on the continent.

"I'm a traditionalist and I like the way the season runs at the minute but if it is going to give us a percentage improvement in the players when they come against opponents who are midway through their season then a change could be beneficial," said Healy, whose side are level at 2-2 with HB Torshavn in the Europa League second round qualifier ahead of tonight's rematch at Windsor Park.

"But would we have done any better against Rosenborg if we played them in December halfway through our season? Probably not as they are on a completely different level, so there are arguments on both sides.

"People can throw stats at you but summer football won't guarantee Irish League clubs a place in the group stages of the Champions League or Europa League.

"Whether we move the season to the summer or go full-time or not, it still helps to be lucky in Europe in terms of the draw.

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"If Crusaders played Wolves in December they still wouldn't be expected to win that game.

"We can't compete against Premier League sides. You are never going to know until you experiment with it.

"I congratulate people for thinking of ways to improve the game but until the ideas are put into practice you never know how they will work."

On Linfield's plans to go full-time, Healy said the club must get their timing right.

"It's been said the harder you practice the luckier you get and certainly the harder you work the better you will be," he added.

"There will be improvements."

Healy added: “We have talked about wanting to go full-time but we will only do it when we are ready.

“We will need to have the right foundations in place and the right players in the dressing room to move us forward.

“We don’t feel you have to do it because other teams are. We will do it when we are ready.

“There are huge financial benefits for the clubs and that’s why it’s disappointing we are losing a European place and £200,000.

“It was a huge plus when we drew Celtic yet went on to win nothing that season.

“If European sides progress through a round they win the league six times over in terms of prize money, and a full-time environment at Windsor Park would help towards that.

“Not all clubs will be able to go full-time and then will that create a greater divide between clubs?”

If the Blues progress to the next round they will face FK Sutjeska from Montenegro after their 4-0 aggregate Champions League loss to Apoel Nicosia.

“I think it’s a big one for the staff, players and fans,” added Healy.

“We all want to progress to the next stage and it’s not very often we put out a rallying cry to the fans to make it as hostile and electric that we can.”

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