Linfield FC has just announced the departure of Trai Hume to Sunderland and Jamie Megarry of Linfield official media spoke to Trai about the move.
Trai bowed out in the perfect way, scoring in both of his last two appearances in a Linfield shirt. As well as a remarkable goal-line clearance and a brilliant assist against Ballymena United on December 21, he netted in the traditional festive derby against Glentoran at Windsor Park in a game where he made another brilliant goal-line clearance. Then, on his final appearance at the weekend he scored a header in Linfield’s emphatic 6-1 win over Dungannon Swifts. Incidentally, the goalkeeper he scored his final goal against was Michael Quinn – the son of Sunderland legend Niall Quinn, the Black Cats’ former striker and chairman, who was watching from the stands. Defender Hume says it was the perfect way to sign off.
“It was a good way to bow out, with a good win and to get a goal was good to help the team at that moment. We came out quickly in the second half and scoring that goal put the game to bed. I said a few weeks back I wanted to add goals to my game and it’s good to have done that recently. The main about scoring is that you’re helping the team.”
The 19 year-old is the latest off the Linfield Academy production line, to earn a move to a big English club and is another example to inspire the kids currently with the Blues at Youth level. As Trai explains, he’s worked his way up from the U12s, with the help of many coaches - alongside his hard work and ability.
“I joined Linfield at Under-12 level when I was around 11 years old and have been with the club ever since. There are so many people I would like to thank. Scott Boyd brought me in at the start along with Jeff Ewart, I’d like to thank them. Then at Under-16 level it was Gary Jackson before I progressed to the Under-18s and then the Swifts.
First team manager David Healy has been brilliant with me since I was 16 or 17, he has helped me a lot in my development and put a lot of faith in me this season, so I would like to thank him.”
Trai spent last season on loan at fellow NIFL Premiership club Ballymena United where he embraced his first taste of senior football and won the Sky Blues’ Young Player of the Year award. He feels going into the full-time environment with Linfield’s first team this season – along with the experience of playing in UEFA Champions League and UEFA Conference League Qualifiers - has taken his game up a significant level.
“Playing full-time football this year with Linfield has helped me a lot and with regard to going across to England now, I feel that has made me better prepared. It’s better for every player, as you can see in some of our performances, as we’re running over the top of some teams. Some games are obviously tight but you can still see the fitness levels are higher and that comes down to the full-time setup.
“The past six months or so in Linfield’s first team have improved me a lot. Linfield is a high level - playing in Europe is harder than the league, so I think that experience stood me in good stead going into this season. Since then, I’ve tried to kick on and continue to improve all aspects of my game.”
The Northern Ireland U21 International’s performances have really endeared him to the Linfield support who he is very complimentary of and, as well as thanking them, he states his belief that he’s leaving a Blues team who are in a good place.
“I want to say that the Linfield fans have been brilliant with me the whole season, they haven’t said a bad word about me. The players here at Linfield are top notch and it’s sad leaving them but I’m sure they’ll go and do the business the rest of the season. Linfield is a top club and no matter who comes in, they are expected to win.”
“If the lads can go and win the title, it would be my first winners medal in first team football. I will be checking the scores as soon as I can but I have no doubt that we will win the league – that’s the standards we set here. I would be very happy for the squad, the manager and the fans, if we can do it.”
Hume now looks ahead to his new challenge at Sunderland who are a sleeping giant and will have ambitions of returning to the top flight where they were for many years before relegation in 2017. In 2018 they were relegated to League One but there’s a belief that the proud club’s fortunes are on the upturn again and they are just a point behind league leaders Rotherham.
“The ambition was always to try and get a move to England and to go and play. I want to get my name out there and do the best I can, to hopefully get called up to the senior Northern Ireland International squad at some point. I’m delighted to be joining a big club like Sunderland and can’t wait to get started.”
The Ballymena native will be well briefed on what to expect on life at the Stadium of Light, as current Linfield manager David Healy played for Sunderland in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons. Likewise, Linfield coach George McCartney also played for Sunderland between 2008 and 2012. Hume follows in the footsteps of legendary Linfield full-back John Parke – a highly-rated member of Linfield’s all-conquering seven trophy team in 1961-62 – who moved to the Black Cats in the sixties, albeit via a season at Hibernian.
Best wishes and thanks to Trai from everyone at Linfield Football Club. Hopefully, Trai will soon be back in familiar surroundings at Windsor Park to pull on the Northern Ireland shirt.