Mark Stafford programme article
Posted : 15th October 2016
Linfield defender Mark Stafford spoke to "Look at Linfield" last week ahead of more of October’s tasty fixtures. The fan favourite starred in Linfield’s last league game, a 2-1 victory on 'Big Two' derby day at the Oval and he was over the moon to win on Glentoran’s pitch.
“It was brilliant to be part of a winning Blues' team at the Oval. Our travelling support was superb as usual and it made for a great atmosphere when we were on the pitch. I felt had we been more clinical in the first half, the game would have been over as a contest. We didn't take those chances and the Glens came out fighting in the second half. I thought the team showed a lot of steel to grind out a win that maybe we didn't fully deserve but were grateful for.”
“It's a very busy few weeks ahead. The players are excited about the up and coming games in the rest of this month. It's going to be tough but the aim as always is to be very competitive and win them all. The strength in depth we have in our squad this season is brilliant and I am sure the gaffer will rotate things, as he sees fit. At Linfield there is no margin for error. The only acceptable result on any given day is a win. So that means every competition Linfield enter in Northern Ireland, they are doing so aiming to win it! That's why I am here and why I give up so much to play for this great club. I came here to win.”
The Fermanagh man was brought to Windsor Park in the summer of 2015 by then Linfield manager Warren Feeney, signing from today’s opponents Ballinamallard where he played since he was a boy. Mark says he is loving life at Linfield where he has a good relationship with supporters.
“When I came to Linfield, I didn't know what to expect. I had only ever played for Ballinamallard, so changing clubs was new to me. However, when I played my first game for the club, I knew this place was for me. The expectation of not only the management and the board but the supporters of this club is unbelievable. That brings with it pressure but I enjoy and embrace that pressure because I feel it brings the best out of me. It has to be said I really feel the supporters of Linfield have taken me in as one of their own and that means the world to me. You don't want to let people like that down when you put on that blue jersey, so you play like every minute is your last. These are special times for me, not only in my career but in my life. To play for Linfield is a privilege that not too many players get in this country. I don't plan to let this opportunity pass me by.”
Stafford has developed a good partnership in defence with Jimmy Callacher and he believes the arrival of Roy Carroll has also boosted the back four, not just organising his defence on the pitch but also by giving advice in the changing room.
“At the moment there is a settled back four and that helps us to try and keep clean sheets. But every one of us who is playing knows that if we don't put in a performance of the required standard, there will be someone waiting to take your place. Having that competition for places really drives everyone's standards up. Big Roy is a superb addition to our squad over the summer. His communication and sheer presence sends confidence right through the team. It's also nice to have his experience and advice in and around the changing room."
The 29 year-old is very much looking forward to meeting old friends today but he expects a tough game against the Mallards who are in a fine run of form.
“It always nice to meet up with old friends. I have plenty both on and off the pitch at Ballinamallard. I owe the club a lot. If it wasn't for them giving me the opportunity to play in the premier league, I have no doubt that I wouldn't be playing here at Linfield now. So for that I'm eternally grateful.”
“My old club have proven to be a tough nut for us to crack in recent seasons. I expect this game to be no different. They will come to Windsor in good form and Gavin Dykes will have the "ducks" well organised and hard to break down. With players like James McKenna and Shane McCabe in the middle of the park, you know that you are going to be in for a battle. It's a battle that I am confident we can win.”
Linfield supporters will hope that Stafford can come out on top against his former club today and keep producing his fine performances in the eagerly anticipated and vital fixtures ahead.