Jamie Mulgrew’s comfort in traditional values ahead of Linfield trophy drive

Jamie Mulgrew’s long-established role as an ever-reliable central cog at the heart of the Linfield midfield represents a welcome touchstone within such whirling widespread Irish League uncertainty.

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew with last season’s Gibson Cup. Pic by Pacemaker.

And the Linfield captain admits keeping his faith in those same traditional values constantly embodied on the pitch acts as an anchor ahead of another Gibson Cup drive.

Mulgrew eventually lifted a 54th league title in Windsor Park history this summer to close out a campaign which promised a thrilling finale but ultimately ended as a result of off-the-field administrative choices due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now he embarks on another campaign with Linfield drawing faith in the familiarity of long-standing goals despite such disruption across so many aspects of modern living.

“I’m 34-year-old now but nothing has changed with age in terms of my hunger, attitude or mentality,” said Mulgrew. “In fact, now I’m even older I probably appreciate more than ever the desire to stay at the highest level for as long as possible.

“Since I first walked in the door at this club I’ve been motivated by that drive.

“We’ve a target on Linfield as a club due to the fact we stand as defending champions - and maybe some people have thoughts on how we won it as well last season given the circumstances.

“But it is about staying mentally strong together.

“It has been a disrupted period for everyone and it is very much going to be this season about how you can handle such circumstances.

“As Linfield captain I have a responsibility to my team-mates of course but, to be honest, if I have a bad night in training or game where it doesn’t come together and am struggling in whatever way I know I can count on those around me as well.

“That’s what being part of a squad is all about and we have to not only drive each other on together but also be there to help each other out.

“I think the decision to schedule the County Antrim Shield ties leading up to this weekend’s Irish League opening fixture list has worked well and helped everyone prepare with competitive minutes.

“It also gave us all an opportunity to adjust to the preparation for games under these circumstances around the coronavirus regulations.”

Across the past 15 years Mulgrew has embraced the challenges of life at Linfield to thrive under the spotlight and collect a string of individual and team honours as reward for such strength of character.

The evolution of the Irish League has gathered pace in recent seasons thanks to significant outside investment leading to increased competition and the arrival of players with bright reputations but often limited past links to Premiership football.

Evidence of Linfield’s own internal evolution can be seen in the growing ability to compete on the European stage alongside domestic glory.

“We have such a competitive Irish League now and you see the progress of our clubs in Europe and the standard of player here and it’s shaping up to be a great campaign ahead,” said Mulgrew. “Managers and players come in with different backgrounds and ideas but, ultimately, it comes down to making the right decisions needed to get results and trophies.

“Every signing can be a risk no matter the circumstances behind the player but, from a Linfield viewpoint, the calibre of signings has been great and the guys have fitted in really well.

“Fresh faces push everyone else on and squad depth is crucial I think to winning league titles.

“The game has evolved, I’ve had to evolve too as a player but you should never stop learning and striving to be better.

“At Linfield, manager David Healy wants us to be flexible in formations and style and that only arrives due to the same old values of working hard collectively and with shared goals.

“Everyone is so well-prepared now going into games in every way.

“It is still about being clear in what you what to achieve together and getting into a position to challenge and win.”

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