Mark Stafford has backed David Healy, insisting he’s got a formula which will work for Linfield.
The star centre-back has found a strong combination himself, alongside Jimmy Callacher, who helped spare Linfield from an ‘unthinkable’ fifth straight defeat with his goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Coleraine.
But Stafford says it’s been a rough ride for everyone at the club, as they’ve struggled to claw themselves out of the worst rut for 18 years under intense media scrutiny.
“You have people questioning the team, yourself and the manager and the supporters are getting frustrated and people are saying things,” he said.
“I buy the papers every week and there’s no point in just buying them when you’re in for good reasons, you buy them to see what people are saying.
“No matter if it’s David Healy or someone else, you have a responsibility to that man if he selects you.
“He had to pick 11 players he completely trusted. If he were to have lost today it would have been unthinkable, so that got me thinking and gave me a lot of confidence out on the pitch today.
“He picked the right team today. He picked the right players to do the job.”
It’s not for a lack of trying on Linfield’s part according to Stafford, who explained match preparation is a refined art, and said he has sympathy for Healy, both having to manage and be the central part of a huge transition for the club.
“You do feel for a man who’s out there to try and do his best. We were there on Tuesday night going through the opposition with a fine tooth comb, videos, tactics sheets, everything,” Stafford added.
“You have no excuse come a Saturday afternoon at this football club. You question everything; are we fit enough, are we doing everything right in training, are we mentally strong enough to cope if we go a goal down. You have to ask yourself millions of questions, but we’ve stuck to what we’ve been doing since the start of the season and I think we got what we deserved against Coleraine.”
Linfield looked nervous in the opening stages, losing marked men too easily and permitting Coleraine to build chances they never ought to have been allowed.
The rough conditions didn’t help; Coleraine’s Rodney Brown and Darren McCauley created promising play, while Neil McCafferty and Ruiari Harkin looked dangerous.
Ian Parkhill thought he had put the Bannsiders ahead on 15 minutes, but was unfortunately blocked in the goalmouth by James McLaughlin, before Ross Glendinning saved Parkhill’s effort on the rebound.
But Coleraine had the wind and rain against them in the second half, and Linfield came out after the break as a different animal.
They won a succession of corners seconds after the restart, and Callacher was first to get himself onto the end of one of David Kee’s consistently good deliveries.
Stafford added: “Jimmy really wanted that goal, he didn’t even catch it cleanly, he just threw everything at it and it was enough to get over the line. That’s what you have to do in conditions like those.
“I should have scored from my chance at that front post, I just got too much on it, my timing was all wrong today. I wasn’t at the races.
“It wasn’t pretty, but I thought we came out in the second half much better and put them under a lot of pressure.
“It’s been hard for me, I’ve been in and out with injury and I haven’t had a good, consistent run in the team but today was probably my poorest performance for Linfield and we kept a clean sheet.
“So maybe that’s a sacrifice worth making, to not play well but keep a clean sheet.”