Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey backs Bannsiders to challenge next year

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey believes this season may be one too early for Coleraine's Danske Bank Premiership title dream to come true.

The Ballymena United manager knows exactly what it takes to triumph in the race for the championship having finished top of the pile on a stunning nine occasions when he was in charge of Linfield.

Jeffrey's comments come ahead of the biggest game of the season to date with league leaders Coleraine hosting champions Linfield, who are four points behind, tomorrow.

Jeffrey feels last season's Irish Cup defeat against the Blues has sparked the Ballycastle Road team this time around.

"I think a big influence, not just on Oran Kearney and William Murphy but the players as well, was the Irish Cup final because they know they didn't do themselves justice," Jeffrey told Cool FM's Danske Bank Premiership show.

"They did tremendously well to get there and had a phenomenal season last time, but they felt they let themselves down that day and I feel they have used that emotion and all the lessons they have learnt through that period of development and progress.

"When we played Coleraine recently I saw an energy, enthusiasm, determination and raw attitude that they were getting something out of the game and deservedly beat us. Coleraine will see this game (with Linfield) as a marker for them."

On the title race, Jeffrey added: "What you ultimately need is depth in a squad or to be very fortunate with injuries and suspensions.

"Portadown did it several years back and big Ronnie McFall used 14 or 15 players and didn't have any suspensions and not many injuries and his best players played better than anyone else every week.

"That's what Coleraine will have to do if they are to win the league.

"Will they win the league? Crusaders will have lot to say about it, Linfield will have a lot to say about it and maybe this is a season too early."

While there will be great interest in what happens at the Showgrounds, Jeffrey's full focus will be on facing Colin Nixon's Ards at home tomorrow.

"Colin is very astute and very focused and came into the job last year when Ards weren't enjoying the best of periods. He was given a term of reference to keep Ards in the league and he did that and did it very well. I think it's a good marriage," said Jeffrey.

"I'm expecting a very tough contest and my players will get the same message as they get every week that they have to be at their best to get the points."

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