Why all Irish League players are a credit compared to pampered stars in England: David Healy
David Healy has never been one to look for sympathy in his football career. Not when he was the first choice striker as Northern Ireland went through a record- breaking barren spell or when he was underused at club level despite being one of the most potent forces on the international scene.
He is not seeking any as Linfield manager either during what has been an indifferent season to date, with the Blues becoming victims of their own success.
Earlier in the campaign they were the talk of the country for their Europa League heroics that almost took them into the group stages of the competition.
Great then, but they have been playing catch up domestically ever since, which has caught up with them.
They are out of the County Antrim Shield and BetMcLean League Cup and have lost four times in the Danske Bank Premiership. The performance in the 1-0 league defeat at Glenavon last month was particularly galling for Healy. The midweek 3-0 home loss to Coleraine in the League Cup hit him hard too.
The positive for the Blues is that they can go four points clear at the top of the table if they win their two games in hand.
The problem for Healy right now, though, is he doesn't know which team will turn up.
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
It needs to be a good one today to overcome a Cliftonville side who have already won at Windsor Park this season in the Shield on penalties.
On the flip side, Linfield have beaten the Reds home and away, so this is a tough one to call.
For the visit of Paddy McLaughlin's men, Healy is in fighting mood. It will be Linfield's 33rd game of the season. With the hectic festive schedule, Linfield will, incredibly, play their 40th match on January 13 at Solitude.
"I've never been one to look for sympathy and for people who butter you up because I've never been one to butter anyone else up," says Healy, who feels he has been demanding responses from his players too many times this season after poor displays.
"You take it on the chin. I had an absolutely horrendous feeling after losing to Coleraine, but you go back into the memory bank and feel you've had other horrendous memories. You either fight or flight, sink or swim.
"For us we are still playing catch up. We have played 32 competitive games and we are in the early stages of December but no one is going to feel sorry for David Healy and Linfield and our players, and I don't feel sorry for them either.
"When the player signs up and I signed up as manager, I know the demands of the football club and I know the demands I put on the players. We all agree to it and shake hands and sign the contract. To be fair, the crowd could have said anything to me after the Coleraine loss and I could have turned round and said 'you know you're right'."
Healy has been critical about the busy Christmas period in the Irish League before and believes this season it is asking too much again. What he has total respect for is the players who compete in the top flight in Northern Ireland.
"The players in this league give everything, and they are an absolute credit with the amount of effort, commitment and dedication that they have," said the ex-Manchester United, Leeds and Rangers ace.
"I was basically pampered at the level I played at. You'd play on a Tuesday night and you'd be in Wednesday morning getting nice baths, massage, nice food and then home by 12 with the feet up.
"We have lads like the Coleraine players on Tuesday who didn't get home to midnight, not seeing the kids or their family, and then there will be some of them out working at 6 or 6.30 in the morning. Truly all the players in this league are a credit for what they give."