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No stopping Linfield's surge to 50th title

Joel Taggart | 14:37 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

Whisper it around the corridors of Windsor Park, but the league title is done and dusted.

David Jeffrey will no doubt tell me I am 'talking tripe' next time I see him, but after Tuesday's Big Two victory for the Blues, the fat lady is clearing her throat and picking her favourite song.

Linfield are on course to lift a record 50th Irish League championship

Managers of those teams in the chasing pack have to say the right thing, go through the motions to appease the faithful that they will keep pressing until the end of the season in the hope that Linfield may slip up. But privately they probably all have that resigned feeling, they know they are playing for second place.

Let's be honest, Glentoran are not capable of picking up nine points more than Linfield in the 15 games that remain and the others are too far behind and have not shown the levels of consistancy required.

Scott Young received criticism from some quarters when, after watching his team lose to 10 man Portadown, he claimed the standard of the league was poor.

His logic was that, despite his team having lost six league games already, they were still within striking distance of the leaders. Now, while I think Scott was wrong to say what he did in public, I have to say I have sympathy with his comments.

Yes, games in the Carling Premiership on many Saturday afternoons or Tuesday evenings are exciting, but I am not convinced that the quality of the football is as high as it was.

You could look at the defeats Linfield have suffered this season at Donegal Celtic, Dungannon, Crusaders and Cliftonville and say it is a sign that the league is so strong that all the teams are capable of beating each other. Indeed, the same could have been said last season during one of the most exciting title races for years.

I would contest that it came as a result of the top teams coming back towards the chasing pack and not the other way around.

It is not just the case in the Carling Premiership. It is exactly the same in the Barclays Premier League.

I am fed up hearing how it is the best league in the world and the fact that it is so close this year proves it. Yet again, it is the same story, the top teams have moved back towards the bunch, the bunch have not caught them.

Would the current Chelsea team live with Mourinho's Chelsea? No chance. Is this the worst Manchester United team we have seen in the last 10 years? Probably. The fact that they are still unbeaten proves the lack of quality in the Premier League this season.

If, as everyone suggests, United have been pretty ordinary this season by recent standards then why is it the other teams have been incapable of beating them?

Back home, and this month has proved once again how difficult it will be for any of the 'smaller clubs' to build a squad capable of mounting a title challenge.

Take Ballymena United for example. Trying to put a young squad together, as soon as star players like Nathan Hanley and Michael Smyth catch the eye, the 'Big Two' come knocking on the door.

It is not a criticism, it is the way the system works. They are quite entitled to enquire about players who are out of contract in the summer.

Scott Young was right. There simply are not enough top players to go around. Yes, there is a sprinkling of real quality stars who have remained loyal to provincial clubs. Stephen Carson and Kevin Branniff spring to mind.

Unlike years of old, there are not as many of those top drawer players, and not enough left over after the Blues and Glens have had their pick to give anyone else a chance of a push for the title.


  • Comment number 1.

    The fat lady has been waiting the wings for some time now Joel. Scott Young is trying to deflect from the fall in quality at the Oval that he now presides over. This has allowed teams to win in East Belfast and reduced the Glens to the role of bridesmaid yet again. The chasing pack are cancelling eachother out which allows the Glens to remain in the top three.

  • Comment number 2.

    for goodness sake Joel, will you get off that fence and tell us what you really think. Is there any chance....

    Whats your solution then??? Convert to Rugby.

    In all seriousness, you've made good points and well writton, and sadly I'll have to agree with you. At the end of the day the team that wins the league deserves it surely no matter who they are. The players need to perform on the pitch

    where have you been for the last few months. You couldn't have been that busy when everyone else was stuck in the snow.

    Right, time to go and check on my own fat lady


    P.S If you make this weekly thing and give it a bit more of a push, you never, the comments might break into double figures. Keep p the good work Joel

  • Comment number 3.

    Joel, the Linfield side has five full internationals! No dip in quality at Windsor then! Agree with MB on one point in that you should be hitting the keyboards a bit more often! Idle hands......Joel!

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm the eternal optimist as far as the Glens are concerned, but I genuinely still don't think it's over. There may be only 15 games to go but there are still two Big Two derbies to be played. The Blues also have two games against their bogey team Cliftonville, a trip to Seaview, and games with Ballymena Utd, Glenavon and Coleraine which are no gimme's. I felt that the Blues were fortunate to beat us on Tuesday, a draw would have been the fair result on the balance of play. I think all the teams have something to play for this season for various reasons, it's just as tight at the bottom, so no games will be easy. All it takes is somebody going on a run like Cliftonville did last season and you never know. On current form it looks unlikely that the Glens will be that team, but I still believe.

  • Comment number 5.

    strange post POEB unless of course your run in is against lower league opposition otherwise I guess you will be playing the same teams we will!

  • Comment number 6.

    My point is that there are difficult games for everybody. If you're being honest, from what you've seen this season, do you think Linfield won't drop anymore points ? They've shown that they are just as capable of losing to DC as they are to any of the top 6. I think if we, or The Reds or The Crues for that matter can put a good run together, then I think it'll be a close call.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think it will be down to the last day of the season were glenavon will hopefully finish in the top six and play Linfield on the last day. But both teams can not afford to throw away points

  • Comment number 8.

    Linfield will definately retain the league trophy.

    None of the chasing pack are capable of putting together an unbeaten run to even stay in contention. I cannot see Linfield losing four more league games and Glentoran/Cliftonville/Crusaders remaining unbeaten. Linfield also have a vastly superior goal difference which as we all know is in itself worth a point.

    Its Gibson Cup number 50!
    Happy days!

  • Comment number 9.

    Have to agree windsorfifteen....none of the chasing pack are capable of putting a run together and remaining unbeaten, but can see Linfield losing plenty of games before they lift the trophy. The first 11 of the top 4 are pretty much all equal, but Linfield have strength in depth. Feel its this and injuries, suspensions that are limiting Glentoran/Cliftonville and Crusaders chances of lifting the trophy more than a great Linfield team. That said Linfield are a young side, who will only get better.

  • Comment number 10.

    have to agree with The_Pan as linfield have the quality throughout their squad whereas the other top 6 teams could beat linfield although suspensions and injuries really hinder these teams quite often because if there is an injury or suspensions teams like the crues have to dive into the reserves unlike linfield who will be able to pick another talented player from the bench.

  • Comment number 11.

    Maybe the quality in the Premier League has dipped after Cliftonville were humbled at home by junior side Warrenpoint! Or is football in the third tier in Irish football on the up I hear you ask? Doubtful considering that Linfield put eleven goals past Kilmore Rec. earlier in the season!

    What a puzzle, within a conumdrum, all wrapped up in a riddle Joel!!


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