It may not have been the ideal way to win it but Mark Stafford is not about to complain as he secured his third Premiership winners’ medal with Linfield.

The Northern Ireland Football League confirmed on Friday the final league standings after a points per game formula was applied after the season was ended due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and it was no surprise that the Blues were sitting top of the table as they retained their title.

“We all wanted to win the league on the pitch, like any sports person would, we wanted to win it the proper way and we know that there was still seven games to play. But unfortunately they couldn’t get the games played so they used a points per game system and thankfully we finished on top of the table,” said a delighted Stafford.

A move from home club Ballinamallard to Linfield has brought major success for the centre half with an Irish Cup added to three league titles and he is still hungry for more.

“If you had said to me ten years ago that I would win three Irish Leagues I would have thought you were having me on. My time at Linfield has been unbelievable and far more successful than I thought it would be. When I first joined the club they hadn’t won a league title in a few years and I thought that we might have longer to wait to win one but we have won three in the last four years. We have been going really well in the league and it would be great now if we could retain the title again and try and give the cups a run. I really want to play in another Irish Cup final if I can before I finish up. That’s a big target for me in the next year if I can stay fit,” he said.

Stafford’s performances during the campaign earned him another year’s contract which will take him into his sixth at the club.

“I’ve seen a lot of players come and go during my time at the club and I feel very lucky that the manager wanted me to stay on for another year.

“It hasn’t been that simple, I’ve had my injuries and I’ve had my problems and I’ve always had pressure. When I left Ballinamallard I signed a two year contract but every year after that it was only one year contracts that I was offered and don’t get me wrong I was more than happy to sign them because it kept me another year at the club. But it just meant that I kept having to prove myself to the board and manager that I was worthy of another contract. I couldn’t afford to coast,” he said.

The title might have only been confirmed last week but the thoughts have already switched to next season for the Blues.

“Next season starts on Thursday for us. We don’t have much time to bask in the glory of a league title, its gone now and we look forward to next season and the European games that start in August,” he said.