FOOTBALL: Early exchanges key for Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew

Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew at yesterdays press conference
Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew at yesterdays press conference

Jamie Mulgrew may allow a brief moment to dream of achieving mission impossible before kick-off but the Linfield captain can also cast his mind back a few months for a rapid reality check.

Mulgrew’s previous clash with one of the Glasgow giants arrived last September during a 7-0 testimonial defeat to Rangers on the same Windsor Park surface he will share with Celtic for the Champions’ League second-round qualifying tie.

The pragmatic Linfield captain went on to lift a domestic treble for the Blues following that friendly fixture and admits drawing on both experiences in preparation for the highly-anticipated battle in Belfast.

“I think that’s a near enough impossible task, to be honest,” said Mulgrew regarding hopes of causing a shock against treble-winning Celtic. “You’ve got to be realistic about the whole situation and last season showed that.

“Celtic came up against a lot of good teams last year and put them to the sword very comfortably.

“We all watched Celtic last season and we know how dominant they were.

“They have aspirations of getting past the group stages, so that’s how far ahead they are thinking, and rightly so, the quality they have in their squad.

“We know it’s going to be very difficult, but it’s about us giving a good account of ourselves and the league.”

Mulgrew also used the example of the Rangers match to highlight the importance of the early exchanges.

“You only have to look at my testimonial to know how important a good start is,” said Mulgrew. “We know it will be vital to start well, to get a foothold in the game and gain confidence.

“We will want touches on the ball to then become more settled.

“But if you concede an early goal you can become fearful of what lies ahead.

“You only enjoy it if you make a good account, in my opinion.

“Hopefully we can and, if so, we will certainly enjoy it but if it ends up like my testimonial with Rangers then you don’t enjoy it.

“No-one likes to play in a match and get tanked but if we make a good account we will enjoy the occasion.”

The clash in continental competition between two teams that dominated on a domestic level last season throws up some tantalising tussles.

“We’ve a lot of experienced guys in our changing room and after the success of last season we are in good form,” said the highly-respected midfielder. “Winning trophies has helped but we know this is a massive game for everyone.

“Our changing room is always a wee bit lively.

“Obviously the Celtic fans in there are smiling a wee bit more now than the likes of myself at the minute.

“It’s really good, friendly banter but the Celtic fans will be no different to myself come kick-off.

“We all want to do Linfield proud.”