Jimmy Callacher in conversation - by Jamie Megarry
Posted : 16th April 2019
Jimmy Callacher has won the Gibson Cup with Linfield for the second time and we caught up with the defender on Saturday, after getting the required point against Crusaders to secure the title.
"I'm delighted to win the league again. I think last year was a reality check for everyone that there are no easy games anymore. We've dropped more points this year to Warrenpoint and Ards than we have to any other team. That's not being disrespectful to Warrenpoint and Ards, but I think it shows you where the league is at, that it's so strong again and that can only be good for everybody."
Callacher has been a regular at the heart of a back line that's kept an incredible 21 clean sheets in 35 matches and he believes this is down to hard work and competition for places keeping individuals on their toes.
"We defend well and we don't hide the fact that we're well drilled. When you have the squad that we have, you're fearful that if you don't perform you're out on your ear. You only have to look at our bench - Mark Stafford won the league two years ago and hasn't been able to get into the team, and Ryan McGivern, an ex Northern Ireland international has also struggled for game time because we have done so well. There's pressure to perform every week and we knew ourselves that as a back four, we might get away with one bad game, but with two you won't. A lot of our own personal performances have came through fear of losing our places in the team."
"I had a lot to make up for. We won the league in 2017 and then I missed six months of last season through injury and when I came back I knew I wasn't the player that I was the year before and I wasn't fit enough. I made sure this season that I'd hopefully get myself in from the start and stake a claim. I was fortunate that I did get in and then when you win a run of games, it breeds confidence and at the end of the day, the league table never lies, we are deserved champions."
The South Belfast man says Linfield's will to win and ability to win matches in different ways drove them on to be deserving champions, although he recalls one moment in particular that would prove to be crucial in the long run.
"Looking back to the defeat to Coleraine before Christmas, I think we needed the discussion that followed it, although we maybe didn't realise how important it was at the time. After that game I think we went on a run and beat teams like Cliftonville, Crusaders and Glentoran that month and they were all big convincing wins."
"When you look back over the season so far, we have shown we have a mixture in our game. We can go to places like Seaview and fight, because that's what it is there, there's little football played in those games. That's not Crusaders' fault or our fault, it's just the way it is with the games being of such high magnitude. We've done every side of the game. If we've wanted to play good football against teams, we've played good football, if we had to battle, we could battle and if we were not playing well, we could also grind in. The Ballymena game is an example from a few weeks ago - we weren't great but we got the job done. I think that's the difference in how well this season has gone in comparison to last season when we weren't anywhere near as consistent. Anytime we've lost this season, we have bounced straight back and went on another run. That was something we said at the start of the season, that we wouldn't get too high when we won and we wouldn't get too low when we lost."
The former Glentoran and Dungannon Swifts defender has been outstanding at both ends this season, leading by example at the back and scoring 10 crucial goals this season and he says they've proven people wrong this season.
"When we looked at the start of the season we noticed people were predicting that we would finish fifth. That's a motivation as a player, it's got to be. We still believed that we had the best squad and we've proven that over the course of this season. We strengthened last summer but the players who came in the summer before, players like Josh Robinson, Andy Mitchell and Jordan Stewart, those are top players and it just didn't happen for them last season but they've been brilliant this season."
Callacher finished by hailing the impact of the supporters and believes they've played their part in Linfield's success this season.
"There was an old saying 'the Kop sucked the ball into the net' and as a centre half I feel that at times like the League Cup final when it was packed, - even when we had our backs to the walls they stuck with us and every block and header you made, to a centre half, it felt like a goal. Personally, I think the Kop have played a big part, especially in the big games and they were massive in helping us get over the line in the League Cup final."