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Waterworth is aiming to banish his blues with a special finish

 

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Andy Waterworth

Andy Waterworth

�INPHO/William Cherry

Andy clutching his fourth Player of the Month award

Andy clutching his fourth Player of the Month award

Andy Waterworth

Linfield hero Andy Waterworth says he's hungry to finish the season with a bang after a campaign which threatened to take a dramatic turn with a Windsor Park exit in January.

There was speculation the former Glentoran striker, who hasn't been a regular starter for the champions, could be on the move.

But the Blues are now grateful the 33-year-old Crossgar man stayed put and his Player of the Month award for February from Northern Ireland's football writers reinforces the old phrase that form is temporary, class is permanent.

Waterworth bagged six goals in a month which brought league wins over Dungannon Swifts, Warrenpoint Town, Ballymena United and Crusaders.

The Irish Cup loss to Queen's University will haunt the club for a long time but the champions' title defence remains on course.

Waterworth, who famously scored back-to-back hat-tricks to help Linfield win the league and Irish Cup in 2017, has always been a big game player and it's his experience and class which has helped the Blues come through a stormy period.

The frontman, who has made more than 300 appearances for the Windsor Park side, will keep his feet firmly on the ground despite lifting this personal prize, knowing that Linfield are still under intense pressure to land the Gibson Cup.

"There was plenty of speculation and talk about me leaving in January," admitted the former Northern Ireland Under-21 ace who began his career with Kilmore Rec.

"To cut a long story short, I was told I'm still a Linfield player and I was grateful for that.

"An opportunity came around again and nothing is ever personal, you always stay professional.

"I'm still contracted to the club and love being a Linfield player.

"It's good to be back in the team and enjoy playing football again.

"There are a lot of good players and it's a squad game but hopefully I will get more chances to do well for the team.

"It's been a tough season with ups and downs.

"Team awards are the main aim but when you get an individual award like this based on your performances, it's a really good feeling.

"December was tough for me, then I was injured and this award reflects a little corner that was turned for me.

"I've a long way to go and if my team-mates are picking up medals then it's a successful season."

At times the Blues have suffered a barrage of criticism this season. It's all part of life at Windsor for the former Hamilton man.

"The one thing I've learned at Linfield is you have to win games," he added. "If you don't it's like anything else, if you don't perform well in your job you will be replaced. A lot of our players must understand that.

"It's important you take criticism on the chin because if you don't perform you are replaced and it's as simple as that.

"For me, contracts mean nothing in football. You must perform and I'm okay with that.

"I will put the work in but when I've been dropped I understand this is a results-based business and no one owes me anything.

"Players need to work hard, perform and deliver trophies. If we don't we will be replaced."

The Blues head to Carrick Rangers tomorrow knowing any slip-up could prove fatal.

Red-hot Coleraine are only four points behind and have real momentum while Glentoran are eight points adrift of the champions but aren't throwing the towel in yet.

"Coleraine are very strong and are in form but I'm reluctant to dismiss anyone," said Waterworth.

"The chasing pack are very close and very capable.

"The beauty of this league is that come the split, things could swing in a different direction.

"Any team in the top six after the split poses a huge threat.

"Football is weird, the European games were brilliant and maybe at the end of the season we will look back and consider how they impacted our season but it's hard to know.

"It doesn't feel like that. Football can be an unforgiving business and there's been a few bad performances and results which have killed a large part of our season.

"But we are still on track for the Gibson Cup and if we win that it will be a good season."

It's the fourth time Waterworth has won the Football Writers' monthly prize and his third as a Linfield player.

The former Glentoran ace added: "I'd like to thank the football writers for this award.

"I was delighted when I heard that I had been selected.

"Personally, this has not been my best season. I've spent a lot of the season on the bench, and I had to work incredibly hard to get back in the team and stay in the team. It's fantastic to be back amongst the goals again.

"For the club, it's also been a difficult year.

"The Irish Cup defeat to Queen's was embarrassing and we haven't been at our best for most of the season.

"We have improved but we still have an awful lot of hard work to do if we are to win the title."

Waterworth has experienced the full range of emotions in his distinguished career but time waits for no man and he accepts he's in the autumn of his career.

"I don't look too far ahead and there have been times when I've stepped back and wondered but I still feel great and I'm enjoying it. I still wake up and want to play football," he added.

"I'm not as quick as I was and have adapted my game.

"I can't change the ageing process but I love scoring goals.

"My favourite thing in the world is the ball hitting the back of the net and for as long as I'm playing that will remain the case."

PWDLFAPts

Linfield302136692466

Coleraine301884622462

Glentoran301776603158

Crusaders301686642956

Cliftonville301758462256

Larne301587582953

Glenavon3010515467035

Carrick Rangers3010218344532

Dungannon Sw308517327229

Ballymena Utd307617345227

Warrenpoint Tn305223228117

Institute302919227015

Carrick Rangers

Linfield

Danske Bank Premiership:

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