Despite defeat to St Johnstone in pre-season, Linfield manager David Healy had a positive outlook after getting more game-time under the belts of key players and coming through the friendly without any fresh injury concerns.
“You’ve got to take the positives out of it and the positives were that we got minutes out of the players and we seem to have got through it injury free, so we move on now to Monday night’s training session. Waterworth, Stewart and Lavery played 45 minutes, while Mulgrew, Stafford, Casement, Quinn and Callacher played about 60 minutes, so that’s a positive. I thought Shayne Lavery started the game well and looked lively. I’m pleased to get minutes into those players and people like Waterworth who needed it after missing the other friendlies.”
While discussing player availability, the boss also provided a positive update on the status of defender Mark Haughey, who hasn’t featured for 14 months with a knee problem.
“Haughey is back, thankfully. He’s had a couple of issues with his knees but he had a minor surgery in the off-season. Mark had been making slow progress but it’s now at a stage where he’s upped the ante a little bit and certainly by the start of the season Haughey will be back, fit and firing, all being well. When Haughey is on it and fit, he is one of the best players in the Irish League defensively, so I look forward to having him back, along with people like Ryan McGivern and Josh Robinson.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions League First Round Qualifier against Norwegian champions Rosenborg at Windsor Park, David believes a fast start is crucial.
“It’s a big game and one thing I’ve said to the players to expect on Wednesday night is that it will be a million miles an hour at the start of the game. In a couple of the pre-season friendly games that we’ve had, we’ve let the opposition have a lot of the ball and sometimes they had longer on the ball than we wanted, so we’ll work on that on Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully, when Rosenborg come we’ll be out of the traps much quicker and then we might assess things 20 minutes into the game to see what way we want to continue on in the game, but the start of the game is going to be crucial that we go and put a bit of pressure on them.”
“I think they [Rosenborg] have been struggling a little in their domestic league and their team doesn’t change much, but they’re a good side. If we switch off and go chasing willy-nilly rather than in a structured manner then Rosenborg are good enough to pick us off. If there’s been anything frustrating about the friendlies for me it would be the soft nature of some of the goals, especially against Motherwell. I don’t think St Johnstone really had to open us up either, other than their third goal which was well worked.”
The manager finished by urging the Linfield faithful to be the 12th man for his team by getting right behind the players as Champions League football returns to Windsor Park, believing that the Blue men and women could have a big part to play, if the team were to put in a big performance.
“Our supporters are crucial to us. I understand it can be difficult at times with the size of the stadium and the smaller crowd but when the supporters get behind us, it really helps us. It’s crucial that they get right behind the players because it’s going to be a hell of a tough game. If the supporters can get right behind the players who are selected to play, hopefully they can go out and deliver the fans a big performance.”
“It’s Champions League football and I’ve said to the players you might never get another chance at it, and I include myself in that, so I’ve told them to go and make the most of it. The Club has been accustomed to Champions League football over the past 20 years or so but we missed it last year and although we had it the year before, we didn’t qualify for 3 or 4 years previously, so it’s important that they turn up and realise that we’ll need their full backing on the night to hopefully deliver a positive performance and result.”