Champion Jamie Mulgrew turns focus to future Linfield goals

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew believes his team’s latest title success, once again, proved the doubters wrong.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 1:00 pm

The Blues paraded the Danske Bank Premiership trophy for a world record-equalling 55th time at sunny Solitude on Saturday night in front of only 100 away fans – made up of players’ families, club officials and volunteers.

In a season that had the Covid-19 cloud hovering over it, David Healy’s boys proved yet again they are a cut above the rest.

There were doubts whether the campaign would last 22 games...27, 33, or 38.

It didn’t matter - the Blues did what they do and win trophies.

They were guaranteed the title following their draw at Coleraine on Tuesday night.

It meant Saturday’s stroll in the sun was merely a side show before the trophy was back in the hands of Mulgrew.

Christy Manzinga and Andy Waterworth hit the goals to snuff out the challenge of a Cliftonville side who now must focus on the NIFL Conference League play-off semi-final against Crusaders tomorrow night if they are to have any hopes of claiming European football next season.

As for Healy and his squad, they can take a well-earned rest for a job well done.

“Despite the threat of Covid, we had a certain degree or normality about our lives, in terms of training and playing football on a regular basis,” said Mulgrew. “In many ways we were in a privileged position, we were fortunate to be able to do that. I know there were people calling for the season to be curtailed...there were also calls for the season to be null-and-void.

“At the end of the day, we kept our heads down and got on with it.

“That’s what is expected at Linfield – we are expected to win every trophy on offer.

“That’s why we play for this club and that was our focus.

“We play under that pressure every week, I’ve no issues with that at all because I think that’s what makes us a better team.”

With Waterworth, Mark Stafford, Mark Haughey, Shayne Lavery and Joel Cooper all leaving the club, Mulgrew believes it will be a massive job replacing them.

He added: “I don’t think anyone is under any illusions, it will be difficult.

“It’s up to me and the other senior guys at the club to help the new players that come in.

“Hopefully, they can hit the ground running and we continue to be competitive.

“There is no question, these guys will be difficult to replace.

“The club is looking to move forward by adapting a full-time model.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t suit some of the guys at this stage of their football journey.

“The recruitment guys have been working overtime in looking for replacements.

“Hopefully, they meet the standards of what is expected of them.

“The two guys that came in in January, Michael (Newberry) and Cammy (Palmer), have strengthened and have proved they are going to be good additions, so hopefully, they new boys will be of similar quality.”

CLIFTONVILLE: Dunne, O’Reilly, C.Curran, R.Curran (Gormley, 60), Foster (Lowe, 78), Doherty, Casey, McGuinness, Kearns (McCrudden, 46), O’Neill, Coffey.

Subs (not used): McCarey, Donnelly, Hyland, Hale.

LINFIELD: Johns, Larkin (Haughey, 81), Newberry, Callacher, Waterworth (Lavery, 83), Manzinga, Stewart, Nasseri, Clarke, Mulgrew (Stafford, 81), Palmer.

Subs (not used): Moore, Millar, Quinn, Cooper.

Referee: Ian McNabb.

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