'The fans deserve better': Healy urges Linfield players to lay down a marker against Cliftonville
Linfield boss David Healy resisted the temptation to give his boys a rollicking following their shoddy showing at the weekend - but wants them to show why they are champions when Cliftonville visit Windsor Park tonight.
On the day the Danske Bank Premiership trophy took up residence at the international stadium, the Blues produced their worst performance of the season and duly consumed a 4-0 thumping by Glenavon.
Although Healy was numbed by the result, he still took great pride in parading the Gibson Cup in front of the home fans for the second time in three years.
And, instead of labouring over their biggest defeat of the league campaign, he prefers to focus on the previous 35 games.
"There were reasons why we lost on Saturday," he admitted.
"I thought the changes we made were positive changes. It didn't work out that way. But I must harp back to the previous 35 games when, to a man, the boys were brilliant.
"They have been incredible. They have won two trophies. Any manager is only as good as the players and they have given me everything from day one.
"The run they went on after losing at Ballymena at the beginning of December was brilliant, we tore a lot of quality teams to shreds.
"You're never going to be at your best week in, week out. On reflection, there were big wins at places like Newry City and Dungannon Swifts when we were miles off it. That's been the difference this season.
"The boys have consistently gone to the final whistle in every game. Saturday was an off day, but I can't be angry. We know every team raises their standards when they walk through the doors of Windsor Park, it's a given.
"It will be the same against Cliftonville, so I'll certainly be looking for something better - the fans deserve it."
Healy took time out to hail the contribution of his hard-working backroom staff, who played a vital role in the title win.
He added: "It was a team effort and things go on behind the scenes that supporters and other people don't really know about. My assistant Ross Oliver has been with me from day one. He goes under the radar.
"Darren Murphy has been added to the team this season and brought a lot of experience. Johnny Williamson, our goalkeeper coach, has been great.
"Our fitness coach, Ricky McCann, joined us from Cliftonville at the start of the season. I've known him from the international set-up. He's brought a professional approach and dedication with him.
"Gary Eccles, our kit manager, has been here for over 30 years. He's seen it all and he keeps me grounded with one of his one-liners on a Monday morning, telling me 'keep your feet on the ground son'.
"I've learnt a heck of a lot in terms of not getting ahead of myself when winning games. And it's difficult not to get too low, especially after the type of performances we produced on Saturday. I think that's the improvement I've made personally.
"I want to thank the Board, who have given me their full support.
"We've got a couple of games left to put down a marker to suggest that this Linfield team will take us into the start of pre-season and beyond."