MARK Stafford has his sights fixed on a league and cup double after helping Linfield to a first Danske Bank Premiership in five seasons last Saturday.
The Blues defeated Cliftonville 3-1 to pip holders Crusaders – 6-1 victors against Glenavon – to the Gibson Cup.
At the half-time interval the Crues had raced into a 4-0 lead and, with Linfield trailing 1-0 to the Reds, it looked like the title was heading to Seaview for a third consecutive year.
But an Andy Waterworth hat-trick in 12 second half minutes changed all that and left David Healy’s Blues celebrating a famous title triumph.
For Stafford, whose headed effort allowed Waterworth to open his account, the league success had been worth the wait after two seasons in which the strapping centre-back had more than his fair share of setbacks due in the main to injury.
“Saturday was a massive day for the club and an unbelievable experience for myself,” said the Trillick native.
“I still can’t believe it, especially the way things were going at half-time. At that stage the title was heading to Seaview.
“The manager laid it on the line how we had 45 minutes left to put it right.
“We have had our doubters in recent seasons but on Saturday we proved we are winners.”
Clinching the Gibson Cup was the big goal for the Blues but having achieved that the former Ballinamallard United skipper and his team-mates are keen to make it a double.
This afternoon the Blues face in-form Coleraine in the Tennents Irish Cup Final and Staffs acknowledges that his team start as firm favourites.
Last year Linfield were comfortably defeated by Glenavon in the showpiece final and the centre-back is well aware that opponents Coleraine possess the capability to claim a famous cup victory.
“I don’t think there is any question that we have the momentum following an impressive run in the league,” added the defender.
“We beat them well(5-1) on their home patch the weekend before last although they did have a few players missing.
“Oran Kearney has done a terrific job there on a limited budget and outside ourselves the Bannsiders have been the form team over recent months.
“It’s going to be terrific final but I think we have the edge and hopefully we show that come Saturday.”
MARK Stafford admitted that facing the Celtic attack will be the biggest challenge of his long playing career.
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