Later that summer, I found the profit made did little to attract new talent in, even English League 2 players refused to come to sunny ol' N.Ireland
The summer also signalled the departure of the Linfield favourite Peter Thompson
, aged 21, who attracted much interest after banging in 20 league goals. Burnley came in with a bid of £250k, which at the time thought was good business, but later found out from a mate I could of made £2,500,000 from him
But life goes on (:/) As the season loomed closer, I felt desperate as I had numerous offers rejected, did they not realise that we were a Champions League team?!? Fortunately I found a couple of young regens would looked immense, I snapped them up on a bargain wage package before any English teams could express an interest.
The overall summer signings were;
- Back up keeper
- A creative mid that became a key player
- Very young striker, becoming a goal machine
- Pacey unpredictable youngster, loads of potential
After losing 2 shakey friendlies, Rangers (tradition) & Newcastle, we jumped head first into the European campain against Macedonian outfit Rabotnicki some 3000 miles away. Having lost the first leg 1-0, I feared my quality of players weren't up to it, but amazingly we smashed them 7-0
in the home leg with Kyle Wilson banging four and youth team graduate William Grattan gettin the other three.
More to follow later
Shortly after the European win, our best and only DM Micheal Gault
put in a immediate transfer request seeing as a lot of interest from Premership clubs (bloody England!) had come in. I quickly refused the transfer request knowing full well i'd never be able to get an adequate replacement. Thankfully he took it will good will. After only a week from the previous round, we were up against Israeli team M.Haifa in the Champs League 2nd Qualifying round. First leg at home we absolutely dominated, with a high attendance of 8560 'The Oval' had become somewhat of a fortress, but none the less we failed to score after being fustrated time and time again. With a 0-0 aggregate scoreline and another 3000 miles to travel are chances of qualifying were looking slim. Within 10 minutes of the 2nd leg kicking off we were already a goal down, although this seemed to make the Israeli's relax as Kyle Wilson equalised only 3 minutes afterwards, then put us ahead 2 minutes after that! The remainder of the game was 'tense' to say the least, and with 78 minutes gone Centre Back Barry Spence lands a punch and is sent for an early bath. With only 10 men and increasing pressure from the opposition I was certain we had blown it. But then late subsitute Stephen Garret put the game beyond doubt on the 80 minute mark heading home across from Grattan's delicute cross. That was it, game, set and match Linfield, here we come round 3!
Ukraine was the destination for our next game, against mamoth opposition Dinamo Kiev. To put it lightly, they pissed all over us in the away leg, I was amazed at only being 1-0 down at the final whistle, overall they had produced 26 shots
. Although there was still hope, there was a massive change in tactics for the home leg at Belfast. We loaded the midfield with 5 players, never letting the opposition settle on the ball, chasing them down with atleast two players at once forcing them to make mistakes. Spence had come back after his one match suspension, and with 14,500 northern irish fans roaring them on I still believed we could qualify. Alas it was not enough, although we went out in style with our heads held high, the final score was 4-4 with a 4-5 aggregate to Kiev.
With no time for rest we were chucked straight into another competition, this being the League cup. Throughout this I mainly played my reserves, it all seemed to easy compared to the Champions League, we strolled to the final then mullered Amargh United 3-0 to pick up the trophy. Now our main focus was let with the UEFA Cup, although we got one of the unluckiest draws as we were facing La Liga team Real Betis in the first round. Obviously we were straight out, expectation weren't high, but I thought we'd atleast up a fight, which was clear we did not as the 0-5 aggregate score suggests.
9 games into the league, we sit right at the top with 7 wins, one draw, one loss. I'm hoping to breeze through the rest without much trouble, picking up domestic cups on the way. Hopefully by the time season 3 kicks off, my team will be ready to cause a stir in European football.