Mark Stafford programme article

Posted : 9th May 2018

Linfield defender Mark Stafford has been left gutted after a last minute booking against Cliftonville has left him suspended for the Blues’ biggest fixture of the season tonight. Speaking to ‘Look at Linfield’ at the weekend, big ‘Staff’ outlined his disappointment but assured everyone he would still do his bit around the squad to help the team.

“It makes me sick to think that my season is now over because of that yellow card in the 90th minute against Cliftonville. Our game tonight is without doubt the biggest of the season. To miss out on it is very hard for me to accept but I will be positive in the changing room and in training to ensure that whoever plays in my place will be ready and will be prepared for it.”

The 30 year-old believes the team owe the fans a big performance and result tonight for the faith they’ve shown throughout a tough season, whilst suggesting that the experience that Europe brought last year when Linfield ran out in front of 58,000 at Celtic Park should provide extra motivation for the Linfield players to put their names in the hat this year again for the Europa League draw.

“Without doubt, we as players owe the supporters big performances in the play-offs. At various times this season you could hear the frustration from the supporters on the pitch and they let their feelings known at half-time and full-time. I don’t mind that all, however, because it only shows they are hurting and they care. It’s up to us now to repay those supporters with some big performances.”

“That game against Celtic will without doubt live with me forever. A surreal and unbelievable experience. The opportunity to possibly play against clubs like that in Europe should most definitely be extra motivation for the lads. However, our performances need to improve if we are to get there. It has been a long, tough season. Of that there is no doubt. However, we have a lot of work to do before we even think of holidays. Big games are ahead and we will be ready and focused. I have every confidence we will get the job done.”

Mark recently reached the milestone of 100 Linfield appearances and he told ‘Look at Linfield’ of his pride at reaching the milestone, whilst he hopes there’s more to come.

“When I started my career at Ballinamallard as an 8 year old and someone told me I would play over 100 games for Linfield I would have said ‘you’re mad!’ I am very proud of the fact that I have been given the responsibility of representing this club for over 100 games. I hope there will be a few more appearances before I have to hand back my no.2 shirt to the club.”

The former Ballinamallard captain, who spent 19 years at the Mallards, finished by admitting his disappointment in seeing his former Club relegated from the Danske Bank Premiership on goal difference. The Mallards clearly mean a lot to Mark and he’s sure they can bounce back strong.

“I have to be honest and say I was emotional when I heard Ballinamallard had been relegated. A football club that gave me the opportunity to play in the Irish league. I’m proud to say it was a club I played for and captained. They without doubt will be back again. The reason I know this is because the people who run the club and make it tick genuinely put the football club first. It’s the heartbeat of a small community and it is imperative they get back to the top league, so the youth have the opportunity at playing at this level. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
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