Linfield manager David Healy admitted he feared the worst at Celtic Park last night when his team went behind after just four minutes of the second leg of their Champions League second qualifying round tie on Wednesday night
But Healy was left bursting with pride at the contributions of both his players and the 1,500-strong Linfield support, in spite of the 4-0 defeat on the night which saw them eliminated 6-0 on aggregate.
“After conceding the first goal so early I was thinking ‘Oh no’, “admitted Healy. “But to be fair, we got to half-time at 1-0 and regrouped - or so I thought.
“We conceded a soft second goal at the start of the second half. Celtic came out and had a right go.
“They had five or six forward players at times. They came out at 100 miles per hour and 4-0 was about fair.
“I patted the players on the back for their effort and discipline. We got done late on with our fitness level.
“The kit man has ordered chicken burgers and chips because these boys are up at 7am in the morning for work. That’s the level we are at.
“Celtic are an incredible team these days. It’s probably the best squad they have had in a long number of years.
“I just hope we don’t draw Celtic under-20s when we come back here in the Irn-Bru Cup this season!”
“The players have come out of this with immense credit. We normally do a lot of attacking in our domestic league.
“We had to defend manfully against Celtic which the players did for the most part.
“It was an incredible experience for some of our lads - especially the Celtic fans in our team who couldn’t wait to get out there.
“I thought our fans were immense tonight. We took criticism on Friday for the few mindless people we talked about but our supporters were incredible tonight.”
Healy also had warm words for Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers who made a point afterwards of congratulating Linfield on their efforts over the two legs.
“Brendan was a class act, as he always is,” said Healy “He is a great ambassador for a great football club.
“He came into our dressing room and shook every single person’s hand.
“It meant a lot to our staff and players that he took the time to do that.”
Linfield go to Bangor on Saturday for a pre-season friendly.