Andy Waterworth programme article
Posted : 20th April 2019
This time last week Andrew Waterworth was about to become a League champion with Linfield for the second time.
The Blues clinched the title with the point that was needed to wrap it up with three games to spare after last week's goalless draw against Crusaders. 'Look at Linfield' caught up with the prolific striker - who signed a two-year contract extension to stay at Windsor Park - and he was understandably delighted.
"It was a nice week for me, scoring the winner against Ballymena which effectively clinched the league. Then I signed a new contract, followed by my Birthday and then we won the league mathematically against Crusaders. There's lots of ups and downs in football, so you have to cherish such times. Something I've found is, the older you get, the more you have to cherish these moments because there’s possibly limited opportunities going forward. As a team we're delighted. With Linfield comes pressure and when things are going well, it's brilliant because there's so many people who follow Linfield, but when things are bad you are low and you do feel the pressure. Last year the manager made it really clear about how embarrassing it was."
This time last year the mood was different, however. The Blues would end up finishing fourth and missing out on Europe. It's been a remarkable turnaround from last season and Crossgar man Waterworth looks back on what he believed to be a key moment in the season.
"I think the defeat to Coleraine at Windsor was the turning point for us. They beat us 2-1 but I think we touched the ball about 4 times in the first 20 minutes! I think we were complacent, as we'd won so many games and we tried to play the same way against Coleraine. We had a good chat the following Tuesday and I remember Jimmy Callacher and I having a heated debate. That night we realised, we might be Linfield, but the days of just playing how we want are gone. You have to adapt to other teams and that day Coleraine caught us out. We agreed that anyone who plays must know their roles out of possession."
The striker - who celebrated his 33rd Birthday last week - has bagged 29 goals in all competitions this season but says it's all down to the hard work the team put in collectively and hailed this as the best changing room he's been a part of.
"It's a good mature changing room and we have accountability. We knew what we didn't do well last year and we've put it right. You need to have a selfless team who'll sacrifice themselves and I'm lucky because the rest of the team graft and I might do nothing and then if I score, it's me who gets the glory."
"It's the best changing room I've been in. Members of our team and staff have had devastating news off the pitch this season and we're so tight knit that it affects the whole team. It puts football into perspective and even the young lads in and around the squad have bought into the culture of the club. It's like a family. From the top down we need that, everyone pulling in the same direction."
The former Hamilton Accies, Ards, Lisburn Distillery and Glentoran striker finished by hailing the supporters and states that he believes that they've played their part in ensuring Linfield's home record this season has improved.
"There's a youthful presence in the Kop stand and it's noisy. Last week with five minutes to go I was exhausted but I heard them singing 'champions' and 'Belfast Linfield' - at the time I didn't know how Ballymena were doing but It really gave me a lift. I know it's a cliché but fans play their part. The League Cup final was another example. We were absolutely battered that day, but we knew it - once we were 1-0 up, it was a case of stick or twist and we stuck to defending to see it out. The Kop were right behind us and it helps massively - we knew they'd back us, if we tried to dig in for the 1-0 win that day. When I was playing against Linfield years ago for Distillery, Glentoran, etc, it was a bit intimidating up against the likes of Winkie Murphy and Spike Ferguson. Since Windsor Park has been redeveloped, it's been a nice 'neutral venue' for teams and Linfield lost something through that, but having fans in the Kop stand brings it back."
Many congratulations to Andy on becoming a league winner again and everyone at Windsor Park will be delighted that the man who so often delivers on the big occasion has agreed to stay at the club for another two years