Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran v Linfield is still battle that gets to Jeffrey

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey and Scott Young will be in opposite corners at the Oval tonight but when it comes to ‘Big Two’ battles they are made of the same stuff.

Think of great Glentoran v Linfield clashes of yesteryear and the names of a few players spring to mind, fierce competitors who understood what the badge on their jersey meant.

Jeffrey and Young are now managers, sending their troops into battle in front of the Sky Sports cameras tonight but they will demand the same passion, desire and commitment they displayed when they went to war.

It’s a game which doesn’t suit journeymen who simply want a handsome pay packet or to see their name in the headlines.

The biggest game in local football is all about pride and passion, knowing what victory or defeat means to devoted supporters.

Young’s constant trips to the treatment room when he was a Glentoran player underlined his willingness to go in where it hurts for the cause.

And Jeffrey lived for the Big Two showdowns because there was no greater feeling than turning over your fiercest rivals.

While Jeffrey is the master and Young the apprentice in managerial terms, both share a very real understanding of what it takes to secure bragging rights in the biggest Belfast derby.

“The Big Two games are always special occasions and big matches with huge rivalry and needle in them,” said the Linfield boss.

“They are special, particularly for those people who have a strong allegiance and loyalty to the club, to those people who have supported the club since they were young.

“Beating Glentoran meant all the more to me and there is no other way to describe the Big Two games other than to say the build-up and preparation says it all with you still getting those butterflies in the stomach and you also feel the weight of expectation of the supporters.

“I can remember my first Big Two clash, a Gold Cup Final when Johnny Jamieson scored with a header, it’s still vivid in my mind.

“There was also the great Boxing Day game which finished 3-3 when Jason Allen had to go off with a collapsed lung and Noel Bailie played sweeper for the first time. It was a cracking game.

“But all the games are full of incident, passion and desire.

“It’s about winning individual battles but also about being the better collective unit as well as enjoying a little luck of course.

“People can say it’s about which team wants to win the game more but no-one likes losing.

“The reality is that any player who needs motivating for a Linfield v Glentoran game should not be playing for either club. When they cross the line they have to give everything.”

Big Two games are always feisty occasions but tonight’s cocktail has an even stronger taste to it as the Glens have made a promising start to the season and the Sky Sports cameras are there to capture every incident.

“I think the rivalry is even greater this year because the Glens have made it very clear that they intend to wrestle the Gibson Cup back from us,” added Jeffrey.

“The challenge for us now is to try and hold onto the trophy. We want to get close to the Glens in the league table and there is always the fear that that five point gap could return to eight.

“Our priority now is to ensure that Glentoran don’t have a healthy lead in the title race.

“Sky Sports have started broadcasting the games and they are delighted with their audience figures, proving that we have a very worthwhile product that people want to watch.”

Jeffrey is hoping his players have brought their shooting boots to east-Belfast as the champions have failed to carve open opponents at will this season.

“We are creating several chances but you are never comfortable until the ball starts hitting the opposition’s net,” added the Blues boss.

“The Glenavon game summed up the season so far as we were in good positions to score but only won the game by a small margin.

“Having a stonewall penalty turned down also doesn’t help but you always want to take chances and kill teams off.

“You could say afterwards that we deserved to win the games as defensively we have been strong but more goals would settle the nerves.”

It will certainly be a nerve-jangling night on Mersey Street this evening.

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