Belfast Telegraph

'We needed to win the league': Andy Mitchell delighted to avoid another Linfield crisis with title-winning campaign

Linfield 0 Glenavon 4

Party time: Andy Mitchell pops the champagne as Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew lifts the Gibson Cup
Party time: Andy Mitchell pops the champagne as Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew lifts the Gibson Cup

By Alex Mills

Linfield's versatile Andy Mitchell admits he takes a certain degree of satisfaction in proving people wrong.

His beaming smile said it all when he stepped onto the podium at Windsor Park on Saturday to receive his Danske Bank Premiership winners' medal.

It climaxed a fantastic season for David Healy's Blues.

The irony of it was that they reserved their worst performance of the campaign for presentation day.

The meanest defence in the league was breached four times, which was unthinkable because they had conceded only 21 in their previous 35 outings.

Yes, the result came at the wrong time, but the reality is that Healy's troops are still nine points ahead of the chasing pack with two games remaining - the job had already been completed in style.

Healy's team may have been written off by many before a ball was even kicked, but former Rangers man Mitchell sensed there was a hunger and determination following the club's failure to lift a trophy last season.

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"We needed to win the league this season, it was a must," confessed Mitchell.

"A lot of people thought we would have another mediocre season. We've taken it game by game and never looked too far ahead. Last season was tough, and everyone knew we'd something to prove.

"When I was at Crusaders, if you missed out on the league title it wasn't a massive crisis. It's different at Linfield. You are expected to win it every year.

"It's just a pity we couldn't do it with a bit of style for the fans. It was a bit of a downer for the players and the supporters.

"There were a few boys who didn't want to come out to lift the trophy because they were embarrassed by the performance.

"But in the grand scheme of things, we've played 36 league games and have been immense in most of them. The gaffer told us to put it on the back burner and enjoy ourselves."

After last season's disappointment, Mitchell cemented his place in the team and has featured in 29 league games. He had to deal with personal tragedy and admitted the Blues family helped him in a difficult period.

"It's been a whirlwind year for me," he added.

"It was tough at the start and then my sister passed away. The lads rallied around me.

"I came here with a big question mark over me and, although I did okay over the season, I've still got to improve in certain areas.

"I managed to get into the side and I've now got league and League Cup winners' medals.

"There were question marks over us all, so it's nice to prove people wrong now that we have the league title at Windsor Park.

"The preparation for next season will start immediately. We won't be resting on our laurels."

Healy said he was partly to blame for the loss.

"Am I angry? No. I can't be because of the amount of effort the players have given me this year," he said.

"I eased up on training, so I take part of the blame."

Glenavon chief Gary Hamilton, whose boys formed a guard of honour for the champions before the game, said: "It was our best performance of the season.

"It was a terrific display. I know Linfield didn't have their full-strength side out, but it was a team capable of beating anyone."

LINFIELD: Deane, Stafford, Waterworth, Cooper (Stewart, 62 mins), Millar, Clarke, McClean (Mulgrew, 62 mins), Fallon, McGivern, A Mitchell, Cervenka (O'Connor, 58 mins). Unused subs: C Mitchell, Callacher, Reynolds, Quinn.

GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marron (Harmon, 74 mins), Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell (Jenkins, 77 mins), McCloskey (Hamilton, 77 mins), Murray, Singleton, Garrett, Wearen, Sharkey. Unused subs: Hall, Barr, Norton, Hunter.

Referee: Jamie Robinson (Lurgan)

Man of the match: Robert Garrett

Match rating: 7/10

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