There were a few raised eyebrows when Andy Waterworth was handed the captain’s armband at Linfield, but manager David Healy believes the striker is thriving on the responsibility!
The 30 year old, who has bagged a staggering 28 goals this season, has been key to the Blues’ renaissance, which has taken them to within six points of Danske Premiership leaders Crusaders.
Healy’s troops have bravely bounced back off the ropes following a horrible month back in November when they failed to pick up a single point. They travel to face an erratic Portadown side at Shamrock Park on Friday night - with Waterworth bang on form.
“It’s always nice when the strikers are scoring goals,” said Healy. “He’s in a good scoring run at the moment. I have a strong relationship with Andy . . . which I have with all of my players.
“He’s captain of the side. If there are any issues that need to be discussed, I speak with Andy first before I address the rest of the boys. Regardless of whatever level you play at, the captain and manager’s relationship is important.
“He is not going to shout and scream about things. He leads from the front and that means scoring goals and putting in good performances. He’s doing all that at the minute. He’s closing in on 30 goals for the season. I don’t want to put pressure on him, but he well capable of reaching 40.”
Northern Ireland international striker Healy is going about his business in a quiet, efficient manner -- his team clinging to the coat tails of the title holders.
They have bagged in 19 goals without reply in their last four games, Healy added: “We really have a tough run coming up, Portadown, Coleraine Glenavon and Cliftonville, but as a player these are the type of fixtures you want to be involved in.
“This a huge game. There should be a great atmosphere and hopefully our fans will again come out in big numbers to give us their backing, especially on a Friday night.
“I seen the Portadown pitch on television . . . it’s not going to be conducive to the football purist.
“But our boys have the mind-set of winning games and that’s where we want them to be.
“We are aware that Portadown’s league form has not been great. But they had an excellent result in the Irish Cup last weekend and I know that can lead to better things.
“They have got good players - it will be a big test for us.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot of points to play for. Our recent results are encouraging, especially going into the Portadown game.
“When we were on a sticky run in November, we lost down there . . . I think our performance merited more on the day.
“We have worked hard on the training pitch, especially the defensive side of our game.”
Healy is hoping to have live wire Paul Smyth available, while Mark Haughey, Ross Clarke, Stephen Lowry are almost ready to push for a first team shirt.
“We are going to need them all over the final few months,” added the manger. “It will give us good options.
“The sooner they reach match fitness the better, because it will put pressure on me as a manager. It’s not only difficult to pick a starting eleven, but it is also tough picking the five guys to sit on the bench.
“We took Paul Smyth off at half time last week because of a little niggling injury. Guy Bates came on to set up a couple of goals. It always good to have options.
“I hear people talking about the options other teams have, but we have options all over the pitch.”