David Jeffrey admitted last night he was “desperately sad” to learn of Alan McDonald’s exit from Glentoran.
Jeffrey knows all about the pressures and expectation levels at a Big Two club and while Glentoran are his old enemy, he has tremendous empathy with anyone occupying the hotseat at the Oval or Windsor Park.
The Blues boss was targeted by boo-boys earlier in the campaign but his side are now favourites for the title — one point clear at the top with two games in hand on nearest rivals Cliftonville.
Glentoran’s title defence suffered a significant knock at the weekend when the Glens crashed to a 2-0 defeat at Dungannon Swifts — a defeat which ultimately sealed McDonald’s fate as the former Northern Ireland skipper signalled his intention to quit.
“From a personal point of view I am desperately sad to see Alan part company with Glentoran and I do feel for him,” said Jeffrey.
“I have a massive amount of respect for Alan and what he has achieved in the game, including as a player with Northern Ireland.
“I have known him since I was 16 or 17 — for over 30 years —and it is always sad when a managerial reign comes to an end.
“With respect to all supporters, people complain a lot about poor results but very few of us know the level of commitment, time and heartache that managers go through.
“Alan feels it is the right time for him to leave the job and his decision should be respected.”
The Blues boss will continue his trophy hunt this evening when Portadown visit Windsor Park (7.45) in another titanic Carling Premiership clash.
The title pendulum may have swung in Linfield’s favour but the tide could turn against them if any complacency creeps in.
The Ports, who have won four games on the spin, will be formidable opponents tonight.
“The challenge facing the players is quite simple,” added Jeffrey. “They will have to stay mentally switched on if they want to win the league. Getting to the top of the table is one thing, but staying there is another.
“I do not doubt their ability, desire or attitude but they now have to show mental strength and courage.
“We are coming up against another formidable challenge in the shape of a Portadown side that is really flying just now.
“They are an excellent side that has just beaten Cliftonville twice and Glentoran.
“We have already lost down at Shamrock Park this season and in fact, following that defeat, we went on a very poor run before Christmas.
“I am so pleased to be back on top of the table but we now need to go on a winning run. People can talk about our games in hand but they are only important or of benefit to us if we get the points.”