Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Jeffrey relishing TV clash with Reds

Even after winning five Championships in his ten years as Linfield manager, David Jeffrey is beginning to get excited as the kick-off of the Irish Premier League season looms.

That's because the start of this season's campaign has a special feel. The Blues defence of the title commences, not on Saturday as usual with the rest of the teams in the league, but over 48 hours later on a Monday night.

Over the last three seasons Linfield have been used to playing in Setanta Sports Cup games on Monday evenings, but Irish League games on the first night of the week are unheard of.

Now that Sky Sports are on-board, with an agreement to screen at least five games over the course of the season, teams taking part in those games will have to agree to changes in kick-off times.

There are unlikely to be too many complaints about that, least of all from Jeffrey, as he looks forward to the trip to Cliftonville for the league opener, even after losing 2-0 against the Reds in the County Antrim Shield at Windsor Park on Tuesday night.

" The start to the league couldn't be better," said Jeffrey.

" It's a night game, Sky Sports are covering it, we're away to Solitude, TV cameras. It has everything.

"It is great for the players to get an opportunity to put their wares on show right throughout the World, not just in Britain, this game can be seen throughout the World and it provides a fantastic opportunity for them.

"There is a special buzz about the league because that is ultimately the bar by which you judge your standard.

"You always look to how you've performed in the league. Cups are great; but the league is your bread and butter and you want to see, 'how well have I done over the season?' Can you win the league? Can you qualify for Europe."

Monday's game will be Linfield's tenth visit to Solitude since their exile from the north-Belfast venue for fear of trouble was ended. The fact that the previous games have passed without incident and Sky Sports now want to screen a meeting between the sides shows just how far Northern Ireland in general and local football in particular has move on since the Autumn of 1998 when the Blues returned after more than 25 years.

And the fact that his team haven't lost there in a lot longer than that means Jeffrey has no fear of taking on the Reds in their own backyard.

"Our record up there is excellent," said Jeffrey.

"I don't think that means we go with any extra confidence because we go with confidence all the time, but we never go conceited or being big time, we never say what we are going to do but we go with confidence because of the ability in the side.

"You only have to look at our league record over the last lot of years and it is pretty impressive."

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