European Blues

Published Tuesday, 23 July 2013
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Over the years Linfield have enjoyed many a memorable night in Europe and on Thursday night at Windsor Park Greek side Xanthi stand between them and a place in the second round of Europa League qualifying.

Less than a year ago some people were calling for manager David Jeffrey's head after the Blues had gone through a season without a trophy to their name and achieved 'only' a third place finish in the Irish Premiership.

Now though, big Davy will take on hero's status if his side can qualify for the next stage of the competition and earn a likely meeting with Standard Liege.

Jeffrey, of course, is a former Linfield player and he scored a rare goal for the club back in 1984 to secure the Blues a 1-1 draw with Shamrock Rovers which earned them a tie with Panathanaikos.

The Greeks won the home leg 2-1 and then put Linfield out 5-4 on aggregate after coming from 0-3 down to force a 3-3 draw in the return leg.

Before that, in 1971 Linfield bowed out on away goals to Manchester City after winning the home leg 2-1 in front of 25,000 at Windsor Park.

More recently in 1993, the Blues beat FC Copenhagen 3-0 at home but went out 4-3 on aggregate after the Danes scored an injury time winner in the return leg.

In the current decade Linfield haven't had much success in terms of winning ties in Europe until the last two years when the club has been successful in two out of four ties including an unprecedented three victories in a row in the current campaign.

Faroe Islanders IF were beaten home and away and then came arguably one of the Blues best-ever results in Europe - that 1-0 away win in Xanthi, a team that plays in what is rated the 11th best league on the continent.

Now the challenge is to ensure all the hard work in Greece doesn't go unrewarded although it certainly won't be easy - just ask Linfield's cross city rivals Glentoran.

Eddie Patterson's side did their bit in Iceland when they came away from Reykjavick with a creditable 0-0 draw against KR only to lose the home leg 3-0 at the Oval.

Ironically, KR were drawn to face Standard Liege and a 3-1 win in the first leg in Iceland has set up the Belgians nicely for the second instalment.

Much will depend on whether the Blues can keep a clean sheet - if they do then they will go through.

Team captain Michael Gault is now being employed in a central defensive role and playing some of the best football of his career having missed the last four Euro campaigns due to injury.

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey, an astute signing by David Jeffrey, made some superb saves in the away leg in Greece.

Both men could be in for a busy night on Thursday.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
David in Spain wrote (550 days ago):
I have followed Linfield all my life,i have followed them away in Europe,ive been to Copenhagen,odense,thrashed both times,4 and 5.Its easy playing in the irish league and winning nearly every week,but when Linfield play in Europe I always look to see who they got,and it is usually someone I have never herd of,and has been formed about 20 years ago,which makes it all the more bitter when we get stuffed,Linfield have been going since 1886 older than a lot of top flight engkish clubs,Linfield are stuck in a time warp,Linfield have the fan base to be a professional football club,i would love someone with vision to come to Linfield,until that happens Linfield will do NOTHING in European football,i was jelous of cliftonville getting celtic,win the league a handful of times and they get that draw,jammy.
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John Flack
John Flack

John Flack is a producer for UTV's Sport department.

A seasoned writer and reporter, John knows local sport like no one else.

From Irish League football to local hockey via Ulster rugby and GAA, John's knowledge is second to none.

A big fan of Spanish football, in his spare time he enjoys reading about sport and travelling, particularly to sunnier climes.

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