David Healy ready for ‘local derby’ to kick off Linfield’s European run

David Healy says Linfield will not be taking The New Saints lightly as they face off in the first qualifying round of the Champions League this evening.

By Steven Crawford
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 3:23 am

Healy is all too aware of the European pedigree of the Cymru Premier side ahead of their first leg at Park Hall.

Only 12 months ago they dumped ‘Big Two’ rivals Glentoran out of the Europa Conference League with a 3-1 win over the two legs.

So the Blues boss says their opponents will command the “utmost respect”.

Linfield manager David Healy. Pic by Pacemaker.

“It’s a fair draw in that it gives us a chance of progressing,” Healy told the club website. “But of course, The New Saints will look at the draw and think it also gives them a really good chance of making progress in the competition.

“They are regularly champions of Wales and the seeded team in the draw so they will command our utmost respect, as they are a good side who have a fine pedigree in European competition.”

Logistically it is the perfect draw for the Blues with a large travelling contingent expected to make the journey to Shropshire, and Healy feels that could make a big difference ahead of next week’s second leg at Windsor Park.

“In many ways, it’s like a local derby in Euro terms and we already know quite a bit about the New Saints, so it’s an exciting draw for us and one we will relish,” said Healy. “We’ve missed our supporters on our European travels in recent years, due to Covid restrictions and I’m particularly pleased for the supporters who will be able to get match tickets that we’ve got this favourable draw from a supporter travelling perspective.

“Logistically, it’s a good draw for the club, in terms of getting there and back and I look forward to seeing a good turn-out of Blue men, women and children in Oswestry.

“Our focus is on doing all we can to try and win the tie and our supporters can help make a difference over the two legs of the tie.”

It has been a busy few weeks for the Blues as they build up the preparation for the European ties.

A training camp in Marbella, where they defeated the Qatar national team, was followed up with friendlies against Newtown and St Mirren as Healy integrates his new signings.

The only disappointment for the Blues is the absence of Jimmy Callacher.

The defender underwent minor surgery recently on a “niggly injury” dating back to the end of last season, but Healy is hoping he won’t be out for long.

“Jimmy underwent minor surgery recently,” said Healy. “He had a niggly injury dating back to the end of last season and he needed surgery, so that’s now been attended to and we will continue to monitor and assess his recovery.

“He didn’t travel with us to Spain and he will be unavailable for games for a short period but we will hopefully welcome him back to action before too long.

“We had a very productive and intensive week of pre season preparations in Spain and our build-up continued with the two friendly games.

“We will prepare thoroughly and professionally and do our research on our opponents and when the game comes round, we will be as ready as we can be for what’s sure to be a tough challenge.”

Larne, Crusaders and Cliftonville will complete the Danske Bank Premiership’s run of clubs in European competition this summer.

Larne line out tonight against St Joseph’s in Gibraltar for the Europa Conference League first-leg test.

On Thursday, Cliftonville face Slovakia’s DAC away and Crusaders meet FC Bruno’s Magpies in Gibraltar.