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Glentoran must beat rivals Linfield if they wish to be considered title contenders this season, claims Leeman


Paul Leeman has sounded a warning note to old club Glentoran

Paul Leeman has sounded a warning note to old club Glentoran

Paul Leeman has sounded a warning note to old club Glentoran

Glentoran legend Paul Leeman believes Tuesday night's Big Two showdown at Windsor Park is a must-win game for Mick McDermott's boys.

The east Belfast side approach the first showdown of the season against fierce rivals Linfield while rooted firmly at the bottom of the Danske Bank Premiership table.

Two points from their first four starts wasn't the return McDermott had in mind after bolstering his squad over the summer with eight high-profile signings.

In contrast, David Healy's title holders have gone about their early season business in a ruthlessly efficient manner with six wins from six games, including yesterday's 2-0 victory over Glenavon, and that would suggest they've no intentions of releasing their grip on the Gibson Cup.

Leeman, who made 597 appearances in the famous red, green and black shirt over 15 successful seasons, reckons it's now or never for the Glens - they simply can't afford to fall further behind.

"If Linfield happen to beat the Glens, it would be a long way back," warns Leeman. "There is no better game for Glentoran to start build momentum than a Big Two derby."

Leeman, who won his fair share of Big Two battles, states: "The players shouldn't really need motivated. Yes, they have started poorly, but they must remain positive.

"This a huge game, which will be televised. It would be a nice one for Glentoran to win to help get them away from the bottom of the table.

"In saying that, Linfield are playing really well. They are grinding out results. It will be a tough game for Glentoran, but they have the players at their disposal to get a result."

Leeman, who picked up 19 winners medals at Glentoran, which included four League titles and three Irish Cup wins, reckons the pressure must be taken off striker Robbie McDaid - their main source for goals.

"They rely heavily on Robbie to score the goals," he adds. "He had a great season last year. I think they need other players to take the pressure off him.

"The team needs to find goals from other areas of the pitch. When you look at the attacking players in the squad, some of them need to step up.

"Glentoran are pretty solid defensively, but they need to do more in terms of creativity and perhaps score goals from other areas. They will certainly start to pick up points when that happens."

Leeman went on: "Mick brought in a lot of quality players over the summer and I'm sure he was hoping for a better return in terms of the points he's got so far.

"When you bring in players from across the water, everyone expects them to hit the ground running, but that's not always the case.

"I know most of them are here on a full-time basis, but you've got to take the human aspect of it into account.

"They need to be given time to settle in their new surroundings. They haven't played a lot of games together, it takes time for a team to gel, especially with so many new players.

"That's another reason why they have had a slow start. They'll be hoping to bond sooner rather than later. There is no better game than a Big Two match to turn the tide.

"That's what the fans will be hoping for. I suppose it will be easier said than done because Linfield are so formidable at the minute."

Following the Irish Cup success back in July, Leeman admits the expectation levels at the club have gone through the roof.

"That heaps on even more pressure, but that also comes with the territory of playing for Glentoran," adds Leeman. "When I was there, you were expected to win things every year.

"Those demands have disappeared in recent years, but now with the takeover of Ali Pour, coupled with the Cup win and the addition of so many players on a full-time basis, the expectations levels are now somewhere where they've probably never been before.

"It's now down to how those players can handle that. Yes, there is pressure, but good players can handle pressure.

"It doesn't matter if the Blues are sitting at the top and the Glens are bottom, a Big Two collision is always a massive game - and there is a lot at stake in this one."

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