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Linfield skipper Mulgrew backs Healy following humiliating Queen's defeat


Healy Mulgrew
Healy Mulgrew

Steven Beacom

Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew has backed David Healy, declaring that the humiliating Irish Cup defeat to Queen's was '100 percent down to the performance and attitude of the players and not the manager'.

It may be over a week since the mid-table Championship outfit stunned the Blues 2-1 at The Dub but it is a result that remains the talk of Northern Ireland football.

Viewed as the biggest upset in the game here since Linfield lost the 1976 Irish Cup Final to then B Division side Carrick Rangers, there have been calls from a minority of Blues fans to ditch Northern Ireland's record goalscorer, who described the result as his lowest point in football.

Sunday Life Sport understands the Windsor Park board are fully behind the manager and inspirational captain Mulgrew insists that any criticism should be directed towards the players on the pitch rather than the man in the dug-out.

"There is no doubt he is the right man for the job," says Mulgrew.

"David Healy has managed us to two title wins in the last three seasons, has won all the domestic cup competitions during his time in charge and he almost guided us into the Europa League group stages earlier this season. He is an excellent manager.

"Last Saturday's result against Queen's was not down to the manager. It was down to us as players.

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"The criticism we received as players was acceptable and 100% warranted. It was one of the worst results in Linfield's history."

Mulgrew is not just admired for his character and class on the pitch. People respect him for his honesty off it and, although one of Linfield's better players on the day, he did not hold back when discussing the Cup shocker in which his brother Ben was one of the heroes for Queen's.

"It's probably the worst feeling I've experienced in football and it's a defeat that I'll have to live with for the rest of my career," said Mulgrew.

"Queen's played very well on the day and I certainly don't want to take anything away from them but the harsh reality is had we turned up and performed, we would have won the game.

"All the things that you need to win a game of football, we lacked. The attitude wasn't right and for the team to represent Linfield Football Club in that manner was embarrassing, really."

Having been knocked out of all the cup competitions, the Blues have only one trophy left to go for this term - the League title.

It is ironic that, following the awful result against Queen's, Linfield face a huge test, travelling to take on a student of the game in Paddy McLaughlin and his confident Cliftonville team, who have won five matches in a row with December's Player of the Month Conor McMenamin -a former Linfield striker - in the form of his life.

Victory at Solitude tomorrow night in the Sky Sports fixture would take Healy's men to the top of the table with games in hand on their rivals, providing much needed joy for Blues fans.

"There has been a lot of doom and gloom but the good news is that we are in with a fighting chance for the title like several other teams," says Mulgrew.

"The match with Cliftonville at Solitude is the best way for us to bounce back. There is no better game for us after what happened against Queen's."

Mulgrew wants the players to show that big game mentality that took them to the title and League Cup last season.

"If we earn a win it would take us to the top of the League table," states the experienced midfielder.

"It is a big if, though, because we need to perform a lot better and have a better mentality. We also need to be more ruthless from back to front.

"If we can improve on those aspects then we will be fine and will win more matches than we will lose because we have the quality.

"Talent alone doesn't win you anything. We have to adopt the mentality that we had last season when we were very successful. If we do that, we can move forward and have a strong end to the season."

Mulgrew has a lot of time for McLaughlin, who arrived at Solitude from Institute last February.

He says: "Cliftonville are a very good side and are up at the top of the League for a reason. They had a great Christmas period and Paddy McLaughlin as manager has them ahead of where they thought they would be.

"I've always thought that Cliftonville had talented players and it has taken a good manager in Paddy to guide them in the right way. We know we are in for a difficult match."

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