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Getting to play for someone like Healy was key factor in agreeing to join Linfield, claims Newberry

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Michael Newberry has been capped by Northern Ireland at Under 19 level.

Michael Newberry has been capped by Northern Ireland at Under 19 level.

Michael Newberry has been capped by Northern Ireland at Under 19 level.

Linfield new boy Michael Newberry admits the David Healy factor helped lure him to Windsor Park.

The versatile 23-year-old penned an 18-month deal on Friday and can't wait to link up with the former Manchester United and Rangers striker again - they first met when Healy was involved with the Northern Ireland Under-19 set-up.

Having spent most of his playing days at Newcastle United - he joined the Premier League club as an 11-year-old - Newberry was released in 2018 to take up an offer from Icelandic club Vikingur Olafsvik.

But when his three-year contract expired, Healy was quick off the mark and is ready to give Newberry his first taste of Irish League football, although he is unlikely to feature in Tuesday's Danske Bank Premiership game with Portadown at Windsor Park.

"The move came out of nowhere," admits Newberry in his broad Geordie accent. "I worked with David Healy and Ross Oliver before in my days in the Northern Ireland set-up, I was part of the Under-19 squad.

"Knowing the gaffer made it easier for me. I know what is required and I know the standards he sets.

"From my Northern Ireland days, I also know of a few of the guys who are playing with different Irish League clubs - Shayne Lavery, Stevie Fallon, Joe Crowe, Levi Ives and Seanan Foster, while Ben Kennedy, who recently signed for Crusaders, is a cracking player."

Newberry is also familiar with Linfield's long-standing association with Newcastle United through the legendary Jackie Milburn, who played for both clubs.

"I knew all about Linfield, even from my days at Newcastle United," adds Newberry. "I know the great Jackie Milburn played for both clubs, he is still talked about over there. There is a statue of him at St James' Park.

"Jackie played a bit-part in the history of Newcastle United, and it was the same at Linfield. "

In fact, Newberry was the recipient of the 'Wor Jackie Trophy' back in 2016. It's an award presented on a yearly basis to Newcastle's brightest academy talent. He pipped current Magpies midfielder Sean Longstaff for the trophy.

"I played at Newcastle all my life, so it was a bit of a blow to leave, but that's football," claims Newberry. "However, the Icelandic opportunity then arrived, and it was too good to turn down.

"It was such a beautiful place, I settled right away. I ended up playing for three seasons with Olafsvik. I hardly missed a game, apart from when I picked up too many yellow cards. I did sustain a heel injury that kept me out for a couple of games, but that was it.

"We went close to gaining promotion a couple of years, but just missed out. I enjoyed my time there, having made over 70 appearances, and could have stayed but I thought it was time to move on."

That's when Healy made his move, but Newberry is aware that he faces possibly his toughest battle yet to nail down a first-team shirt at Windsor Park.

"I know the expectation levels at the club," he adds. "Linfield are serial trophy winners, so that's a good environment to come into. All I want to do is win games and trophies. I'm now busting a gut to get started. It is always daunting to go into a new side, as an outsider. It will be a new experience for me.

"I'm perhaps regarded as an out-and-out centre-back, but I also played at left-back for Newcastle, while I turned out at right-wing-back for Northern Ireland. So, I would like to think I'm versatile.

"My first job is to prove myself. I don't expect to walk into the team. I watched the game (last week) against Cliftonville on my laptop and it's certainly a good standard."

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