Mark Stafford programme article

Posted : 19th October 2019

Before kick-off in today’s important match against Ballymena United, popular defender Mark Stafford will be presented with the Linfield Supporters Trust player of the month award for September. Stafford excelled as ‘The Blues’ won all four League fixtures without conceding a goal last month, and he tells ‘Look at Linfield’ that he’s delighted to be picking up the award.

“It’s brilliant to be voted as player of the month from Linfield supporters. I picked up the NI Football Writers’ player of the month, too, and I was delighted with it because I’d never received one before despite playing in the League for quite a while. It’s nice to get recognised, especially when the team are playing so well. It’s a huge bonus but it could have been any one of the team because we played well last month and won six out of six, and thankfully, we didn’t concede many goals in the League. It could have been any one of the back four or goalkeeper but it’s nice for me to end up with the award.”

Linfield come into the game after winning 4-1 away to Dungannon Swifts in their last league game and the former Ballinamallard defender believes Ballyemena United will provide a stern challenge this afternoon.

“We were delighted with the three points last week. We started the game very well and took our chances, along with playing some good football. We didn’t play particularly well in the second half but you have to give Dungannon a bit of credit, they pressed us further up the pitch and didn’t let us play out from the back. All in all, though, we were happy with the win but maybe a bit disappointed that we didn’t kick on and add another couple of goals.”

“We can always improve. You never rest on your laurels, you must always strive for better. Ballymena United will give us a hard game, we always get it tough from them with the way they set up and the players they possess. I think Lecky and Friel were back playing together in attack last week, so they’re probably going to be at full strength which will provide a good challenge for us, but these are the games you want to be involved in, playing against good sides. It should be a good game and we need to turn up with the right attitude and play our game and hopefully, it will be enough for three points.”

“If you want to win league titles then you can’t be conceding too many goals at home and you can’t be dropping too many points at home. We have to come to win the game to keep carrying momentum.”

Heading into today’s match, Linfield are eight points off the top with three matches in hand, but Stafford is of the attitude that if you do focus on doing your own job, the table will ultimately take care of itself.

“We don’t really look at the table at this point. Obviously, you want to find out how other clubs are getting on but you’re not obsessed by looking at the table at this stage of the season. All we can do is focus on getting three points each week and then if somebody drops points here or there, then all the better, but we’ll just look after ourselves.”

Stafford found minutes on the pitch limited last season due to the impressive form of Josh Robinson and Jimmy Callacher together at the heart of defence last season but he’s been a key man this season and back to his best. Travelling up and down from Irvinestown, Fermanagh every week, Stafford’s commitment to the Club is remarkable and his decision to stay at the end of last season has proved a good one.

“It’s nice to be involved again and playing football, especially playing in a good team like ours at the minute. We just wanted to keep the momentum going from our European games into the League and so far it’s gone reasonably well.”

“I did an interview for the programme at the end of last season after signing a new contract and said I really felt at that time that I had one more chapter to write at the football club. I felt I had a bit of unfinished business because I didn’t want to leave after last season when I felt I didn’t really contribute much to the group on the pitch, so I’ve one more chapter to write and hopefully, it’ll be a good one come May. I know how special Linfield is as a Club and there’s people who’d give their right arm to play for Linfield Football Club, I know I am in a privileged position. When I’m up here, I give it my all and when it’s over I’ll have no regrets looking back.”

Jamie Megarry
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