Whitey Anderson has fight on to retain Mark Stafford

WANTED MAN: Ballinamallard United's Mark Stafford (centre)
WANTED MAN: Ballinamallard United's Mark Stafford (centre)

Ballinamallard United manager Whitey Anderson admits he has a fight on his hands to keep hold of star defender Mark Stafford.

Linfield are believed to be in discussions with Stafford – who comes out of contract in the summer – after making an official approach to the Ferney Park club.

It was originally thought the champions were lining up a pre-contract offer for the 25-year-old, but with the reported imminent departure of Albert Watson – who is believed to be emigrating to Canada – the Blues look poised to make their move during the current transfer window.

Mallards boss Anderson admits he may have a battle on his hands to keep the player at the club for the remainder of the season.

“Mark is having a fantastic season and it is no surprise that there is interest in him,” Anderson said.

“We want to keep him at this club and we will sit down with Mark and see if we can sort out some kind of deal.

“I have known Mark since he joined the club as a seven-year-old – and that was 18 years ago.

“Unfortunately he is out of contract this summer which means clubs can speak with him. That is part and parcel of the game and something we just have to deal with.

“We will endeavour to keep Mark at the club, but we also won’t stand in his way if he wants to move.”

Ballinamallard are preparing for Tuesday’s Danske Bank Premiership trip to Coleraine where their top six ambitions will come under scrutiny once again.

The Mallards – who currently sit sixth in the table – are now only three points above Portadown.

“We have nine games left before the split, and I have said to the players that it is now a nine-game league,” Anderson added.

“Coleraine is another tough test, but we want to try and gain some ground on them and that’s what we will be out to do on Tuesday night.

“To finish in the top six would be a dream come true, but we are on our way to achieving our main goal and that is to survive in this league.

“To still be talking about finishing in the top six in January speaks volumes on how well the players have performed this season.

“I suppose it also shows you why other clubs are looking at our players.”