Linfield defender Mark Stafford admits he is frustrated by the lack of game time at the Blues but he stresses that he is determined to enjoy what is set to be his final year at the club and would love nothing more than to finish up with another league title.

David Healy’s charges return to action this Saturday against Warrenpoint Town after the short circuit breaker and currently sit two points clear of Larne at the top of the table although the Invermen have a game in hand.

For Stafford though it has been a difficult spell. He got back into the side for the 2-0 win over Cliftonville at the start of December and stayed in for the game against Larne. However, a 3-1 loss saw him lose his place again and he accepts that it is the way things work at a club like Linfield.

“It has been a very difficult season to be honest, I’ve been knocking on the door and when I got my chance I played well against Cliftonville but my performance wasn’t deemed good enough to keep my place in the team after the Larne game.

“I was left out against Dungannon at home and then we beat Glenavon so I’m back out of the team at the minute.

“That’s the nature of the beast at Linfield, when you are in you need to play well and keep winning and if you don’t win at Linfield everybody’s place is up for grabs again the next week.

“It’s very frustrating, especially at my age, but that’s the way of it, we would have six players competing for two places.” he stated.

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The former Ballinamallard captain though says that he will keep working hard to try and get back into the manager’s plans.

“I’ll just have to keep the head down and keep working away and hopefully another chance will come my way and I can take it. There is no reserve games that you can play to get match fit, you just have to be ready to go whenever you are given a chance,” he added.

Stafford’s contract runs out at the end of this season and he accepts that with the club intending to go full time that his time at the club will be over but he says that he has not spoken to any other clubs about next season yet.

“My contract is up at the end of the season and I don’t know what the next chapter is at the minute. I haven’t been speaking to any clubs yet or anything but I’m not panicking about it. I want to try and enjoy the last few months of my career at Linfield.

“The football club are looking to go down the more full time route next year with training sessions in the morning which is good to see because the club need to push on now as there are other clubs doing the same in the league and you can see they are getting the benefit out of it,” he said.

And he would love to leave with another league medal in his back pocket.

“That was the goal at the start of the season and it is still the goal now. Obviously, I would like a bit more input on the pitch but I can only just keep working away at that but it would be nice to sign off with another league title.”

The Premiership will resume this weekend after a two week break and while they have only played 12 games so far, Stafford believes that the season will be finished.

However, he does not expect the full 38 game campaign to be played and instead he feels that one of the curtailment plans is a more realistic option.

“I’m pretty sure that it will conclude. As far as I’m aware the clubs all agreed before the season started that the league could finish after 22, 27, 33 or 38 games so the league will finish, we will definitely get 22 games and I would like to think that we will get 27 played.

“I think 38 is optimistic, I hope we do get them played but when you look at it, we have only played 12 and we are in January.

“It looks to me that 27 is realistic and I would rather play 27 with the split than 33 without the split because the split brings the big pressure games when everybody has a lot to play for whether that is going for Europe or the title,” he said.

He also admits that with all the protocols and playing games behind closed doors, the league has simply not been the same this season.

“Everything is different, you come to training already changed and there are no supporters. Linfield fans travel well, you could go to a smaller ground and Linfield could bring over a thousand supporters and you miss that buzz.

“We understand the situation we are in though and I have to say any of us that play in the Premiership are very lucky. You look at the Championship or other sports who can’t play or compete and we are lucky enough to be able to go and do that. I’m very grateful that we have that.”