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Rivalry doesn't bother Pepper after insisting switch to Linfield was made for the benefit of his career

 

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Pepper being unveiled alongside fellow new signing Navid Nasseri at the start of the season

Pepper being unveiled alongside fellow new signing Navid Nasseri at the start of the season

Pepper being unveiled alongside fellow new signing Navid Nasseri at the start of the season

Any movement between Belfast's Big Two sparks lively debate but Conor Pepper is convinced leaving Glentoran for Linfield is the right move for him.

The versatile 26-year-old agreed a two-year deal with the Blues in the summer after talks over his future at Glentoran failed to produce a result.

The Dublin man didn't feature in Glentoran's Irish Cup semi-final or final encounters and the bigger shock for the east Belfast club's supporters was Linfield's capture of Pepper's team-mate Navid Nasseri who the night before had helped Mick McDermott's side win the trophy.

Pepper was at The Oval for two years and the Glens helped him rediscover his love of football after coming through injury hell, but now he views Linfield as the best place to win silverware and make special memories.

"The last six months at Glentoran left me a bit unsure over my future at the club," says Pepper ahead of Linfield's return to domestic competitive action tonight when they host PSNI in the Toals County Antrim Shield first round tie in front of a limited crowd at Windsor Park (7.30pm).

"There were a few conversations and I wanted to get something tied down.

"Talks didn't progress and as I was coming near the end of my contract I spoke to a few managers. Things weren't sorted at Glentoran, I wasn't playing regularly and I had a good chat with David Healy and thought it was a great opportunity at a club the size of Linfield.

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"I know about the rivalry but it's still my career and I have to make a decision to progress my career. I spoke to former Linfield players and I don't think too many have a bad word to say about the club.

"It was an easy decision and although it was announced after the Irish Cup final, I don't think it could have waited much longer as we needed to get blood tests for the European games.

"Things had to be done quickly and I'm looking forward to playing my part in a big squad.

"When you play with good players it improves your game and the expectation levels of winning trophies is a major reason why I joined.

"I share that ambition. I've played for a few clubs and had a lot of experiences, but I want to challenge for every single trophy. Linfield's expectations never change and that was a big thing for me."

Having played full-time football in Scotland with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton, there's no doubting Pepper's strengths, particularly at right back or in central midfield.

"From the first moment I walked through the door and took part in my first training session I've been grand," added Pepper who is in the process of moving from Dublin from Belfast.

"I knew one or two of the lads including Shayne Lavery. The staff have been great and the European trips were a brilliant opportunity to get to know everyone."

Pepper would like a crack at management one day and he's hoping to learn during his time with the Blues coaches including boss David Healy.

"Further down the line I'd like to go into coaching or management and if I had passed up the chance to go to Linfield I'm sure I would have regretted it," he added. "Imagine if Linfield had won things and I had it in the back of my mind I could have had a taste of that."


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