Linfield officials have confirmed on the club website provisional plans for a trophy presentation at Windsor Park on Saturday evening if the final fixture results in Danske Bank Premiership title glory:
“Saturday is a day everyone at Linfield FC is looking forward to immensely.
“The finale of a long and exciting league campaign is fast approaching and the players, staff and management deserve enormous credit for having stayed on the tails of Crusaders for so long and for edging ahead in the league table after Saturday’s enjoyable victory in Coleraine on one of the most dramatic football days in living memory. Having reached the top, let’s hope we can stay there in what has undoubtedly been one of the most fascinating title run-ins in years.
“Interest in Saturday’s game at Solitude is huge. There were queues for the small number of remaining bus vouchers from 7.30am on Monday morning and if we had them, Linfield could sell hundreds more tickets for this hugely anticipated game.
“Linfield FC sympathises with, shares and understands the huge disappointment of hundreds of our genuine and loyal supporters who are unable to get tickets for this eagerly awaited and much talked about game.
“We have over 2500 members and season ticket holders and many more unaffiliated but nevertheless loyal, passionate and genuine supporters and it’s impossible for them all to be squeezed into the away allocation of less than 800 for this home fixture for Cliftonville FC.
“We would love to have more supporters at this game because we totally appreciate supporter loyalty and dedication, as well as the sacrifices that have been made over the course of this and lots of other seasons by so many. And we know how much this special club means to our supporters and how much they want to see this club succeed.
“However, it is vital that this game passes off without incident and nothing detracts from or distracts the efforts and focus of our players in trying to secure the win we all want, at what is a notoriously difficult venue for us to achieve success at.
“Everyone at Linfield has the greatest respect for the Cliftonville club, their proud footballing history and the formidable challenge they will provide to our hopes and ambitions for Saturday’s game.
“This season is far from over and the euphoria of Saturday’s result has been replaced with the realisation that a huge effort will be required by everyone - players, staff management and supporters, IF we are to get the result we all want and are aiming for on Saturday.
“Linfield lost their previous game at Solitude in October, so this week’s game is very far from the straightforward outcome that some people, unbelievably, seem to be predicting or expecting.
“While everyone at Linfield gives Cliftonville the complete and total respect they deserve, this club has to make contingency plans for every possible eventuality and one such possible outcome is that we will hopefully be successful in Saturday’s game.
“IF, and because of the talent and pride in the Cliftonville shirt, we know it’s a huge IF we are successful on Saturday, we have to make supporters aware of what we would like to see happen and have made contingency plans for, (after discussions with the relevant stakeholders) in the best case scenario that we achieve the success we crave in Saturday’s game.
“This cannot be planned for or announced at 5pm on Saturday once the outcome of the game is known but the prior announcement of these very provisional plans does not in any way reveal any complacency or lack of respect for opponents who we respect tremendously. These very provisional plans will hopefully ease some supporter concerns.
“Firstly, Linfield expects and requests that our supporters cooperate fully with the stewards, police and the host club in the arrangements for Saturday’s game. Please do not turn up at Ballysillan, if you do not have a bus voucher for this game.
“Both clubs will appreciate respect from supporters for the host community in the vicinity of the ground, particularly because this club is optimistic that progress can be made in the future towards a normalisation of the arrangements for this game and nothing should take place that would be a setback to those hopes for the future.
“IF as we all hope, we are successful on Saturday, we should celebrate with dignity and class and in the finest traditions of our great club. IF we are not successful, we should accept that outcome with dignity also.
“IF the game goes the way we want, please respect requests to stay off the pitch to allow supporters, players and management to have the opportunity to enjoy the trophy presentation they deserve for all their hard earned efforts this season.
“Any possible trophy presentation, photos and celebrations with supporters would be brief because police will want supporters to swiftly board buses back to Ballysillan, so that the main Cliftonville Rd can be reopened and the normality of life for local residents can be resumed.
“Mindful of the fact that any possible trophy presentation would be brief and in particular, taking into account the hundreds of our supporters who would not get to see such possible trophy celebrations except on TV, Linfield has been keen to arrange a provisional event at Windsor Park - just in case things go our way on Saturday. In the modern era, these things can’t just happen off the cuff, without prior planning.
“In the event that the club hopefully achieves the desired result on Saturday, provisional arrangements have been made to allow Linfield supporters to have the opportunity to salute the team at Windsor Park. The stadium would be open from 5pm but it would be expected for supporters to arrive around 6pm. The Superstore would be open but there would be no vehicular access to the ground via the Donegal Avenue entrance.
“Supporters would be accommodated in the Railway Stand ONLY and there would be no bars or lounges open. The players, staff and management would enter the ground around 6.30pm and they would remain no later than 7.30pm. In the event we were able to implement this provisional plan, the players would parade the trophy in front of the Railway Stand and there would be the opportunity for traditional trophy celebration images.
“However, supporters would not be allowed onto the pitch. A significant number of stewards would be in place to ensure the pitch remains in the best possible condition ahead of our eagerly anticipated Irish Cup Final against Coleraine on the following Saturday.
“Should supporters not respect the conditions on which the ground has been provisionally made available to allow supporters to have the opportunity to see the team with the much sought after trophy, the players would either not enter the playing arena or alternatively, they would leave, if already there.
“It’s therefore imperative that some supporters would not spoil this (possible) occasion for the majority.
“This club will have to invest a significant sum of money to steward the event for the enjoyment of supporters who may be denied the opportunity at Solitude, due to not being able to get a ticket. It’s an investment the club is prepared to make, particularly if it goes some way to make up for the huge disappointment many will undoubtedly feel at missing out on such a vital game at Solitude.
“Should the club not be successful in the game at Solitude, this hoped for welcome home to Windsor Park and possible lap of honour will obviously not take place. However, its important that our supporters are aware that their wishes have been listened to and taken into account, through the planning for and provision of an event at Windsor Park where our players could receive the adulation and acclaim that they would deserve, IF they could pull off what would be a remarkable and unforgettable, against all the odds League title success.
“20,000 Linfield supporters were at Solitude on May 17, 1962 when Linfield last won the league at this famous North Belfast venue - after a 3-1 victory against Portadown in a league decider play off to clinch the 7th and final trophy of the never to be forgotten legendary 7 Trophy winning season.
“Almost 55 years later, every Linfield supporter, with or without a ticket, will hope that the win we all dream about can be achieved, to clinch what would be an outstanding league triumph, after a close fought campaign against formidable and highly respected opposition.
“Our club motto - Audaces Fortuna Juvat - Fortune Favours the Brave - has never been more appropriate.
“Let’s hope our dreams come true on the pitch on Saturday and IF they do, supporters can at least know that they would be able to look forward to seeing the players with the trophy at Windsor Park, if they are not fortunate to be in possession of the ‘gold dust’ that is a ticket for Saturday’s big game against our fiercely competitive and proud local rivals who will no doubt be out to thwart our ambitions and impress their newly appointed and hugely successful interim manager.”