Belfast Telegraph

Linfield's balancing act with new manager

By Steven Beacom

Linfield are closing in on their new manager, but face a tricky balancing act relating to when they will announce the name of David Jeffrey's successor.

The Blues board are determined not to do anything that would have a detrimental impact on the club's bid for Irish League title glory and are weighing up the best time to make public the person who will be in charge at Windsor Park next season.

The fact that the race for the championship between Linfield and Cliftonville is on a knife-edge complicates matters.

Jeffrey's men lead the race by just two points with the Reds visiting Windsor in a massive encounter on Saturday, which should go a long way to deciding the destination of the Gibson Cup.

The powers that be at Linfield want to ensure they do not take focus away from the team, keen to send Jeffrey out on a high, yet are aware that there are up to 12 players coming out of contract at the end of the campaign with decisions required on their futures. Only a new manager can do that.

Initially when the legendary Jeffrey made his announcement last month that he was leaving after 17 success filled years as boss, Linfield planned to make his successor known in March.

It is understood, however, that the Linfield board are in no mood to make any announcement this week ahead of such a crucial clash and therefore the process which Blues secretary Ken Greer describes as 'ongoing' may not be finalised until April.

As for the names in the frame, former Linfield midfielder Pat Fenlon, previously boss of Hibs, has been a frontrunner for weeks, but others are in the mix including ex-Rangers hero John 'Bomber' Brown, former Republic of Ireland defender Alan Kernaghan and Morton boss Kenny Shiels, who in the past has managed several Irish League clubs and Kilmarnock.

After the post was advertised, over 70 candidates from all over Europe applied.

That number was whittled down to a shortlist of six with interviews already taking place, conducted by a sub-committee of the board. That sub-committee have been tasked with reporting back to the full board with their recommendations.

Normally Irish League clubs leak like a sieve, but Linfield have kept their cards close to their chest about the appointment, just as they and Jeffrey did before shocking the local football world when it was announced that he was quitting next month.

The countdown is well and truly on to the end of his incredible reign.

After Saturday's home game against Cliftonville, he has only four games left, the last at Windsor is against Glentoran on Easter Tuesday and his final match is at Glenavon on April 26.

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