Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey is waxing lyrical over his deadly defence

By Graham Luney

Strikers win matches and grab the headlines but defences win championships.

David Jeffrey speaks with plenty of authority and experience when he acknowledges the truth of that statement.

The Linfield manager was a defender who relished a challenge in his playing days and it was an honour for him to play alongside a legend - one of the best defenders the local game ever produced in the shape of Noel Bailie.

Yet in the post-Bailie era, Linfield continue to look a well organised, ruthless machine that is difficult to break down.

Players go in where it hurts and if you aren't prepared to stand up to a physical battle at the Blues then you won't be around the place for long.

While a brilliantly executed goal often lives long in the memory, that crucial last ditch tackle that wins a game can be quickly forgotten.

But teams have no hope of savouring success if they lack stability, composure and class at the back.

And Jeffrey certainly has plenty of options... David Armstrong, Aaron Burns, Billy Joe Burns, Chris Casement, Steven Douglas, Jim Ervin, Kris Lindsay, William Murphy and Albert Watson.

Douglas and Murphy were outstanding in the heart of the defence last season, and new arrival Watson from Ballymena United and Armstrong have picked up the baton and charged on.

Armstrong scored against Dungannon Swifts last weekend and was named man of the match after the 4-1 victory.

Knowing he had to fight for a place at the club he joined in August last year, the 24-year-old has remained patient but he has already been introduced to football's capacity to shatter dreams.

On the same afternoon Bailie played his final league match at Windsor earlier this year and lifted the Gibson Cup, Armstrong was struggling to come to terms with a leg injury that torpedoed any chance he had of playing in the Irish Cup final against the Crues.

Jeffrey, as he prepares his men for the first Big Two battle of the season at Windsor Park this afternoon, is thrilled to see the former Northern Ireland Under-21 international back doing what he does best.

"Alan (Blayney) was praising the men in front of him but I feel he was just being his typical modest self after producing several key saves for us," said the Blues boss.

"But having said that, Albert (Watson) and David (Armstrong) have done fantastically well for us this season.

"I'm particularly pleased for David because he started well last season, found himself out of the team then got back into contention but injury ruled him out of the cup final.

"The improvement we have seen in him over this last year has been significant. He deserves a lot of credit for working hard and improving his game and he is now in great physical shape.

"We all recognise that William (Murphy) and Steven (Douglas) were magnificent for the final third of last season while Kris Lindsay and Chris Casement can do an excellent job. There is a school of thought that strikers win games but defences and goalkeepers win championships and that's true."

Jeffrey's men will be aiming to preserve the Carling Premiership's only 100% record when Glentoran arrive at Windsor today but they will converge on the international venue with young players and even experienced campaigners like Stephen Carson who have not yet been in the thick of a Big Two battle.

"I can only talk about my experience as a player and while every Linfield game was competitive, there was a different edge to these matches," added Jeffrey.

"It will be a new experience for a quite a few players, including our own Rory Patterson, but players should relish contests like this.

"They should want to sink their teeth into the challenge in front of the big crowd and there is always the chance of someone becoming a hero."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph