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DJ is still proving he's the Special One, says Bailie

By Graham Luney

Linfield legend Noel Bailie says he's not surprised his old boss David Jeffrey is weaving his managerial magic at Ballymena United.

Jeffrey steered Linfield to a remarkable 31 trophies and many of those glittering prizes were lifted by his proud captain Bailie, Windsor Park's Mr Consistency.

Winner of 10 league titles and eight Irish Cups, the defender made 1,013 appearances for the Blues and his loyal service and commitment to the cause earned him an MBE.

Still involved in the game as a scout for Linfield, Bailie has been impressed with his former comrade's impact on Warden Street.

Jeffrey is hoping to make it trophy number 32 as a boss - moving him ahead of Roy Coyle's 31 - when his Sky Blues wrestle with Carrick Rangers in the NI League Cup decider at Seaview (5.30pm), live on Sky Sports.

"I wasn't surprised David returned to the game as a manager but you are left wondering where someone goes after Linfield," said Bailie.

"He had so much success with the Blues you could think of a few clubs maybe overlooking him and then it was difficult to predict his next move.

"But Ballymena United have been brave and shown a real desire to bring him in and you have to say well done to their board for making that call.

"David has always been a great motivator but together with his coaching team they do excellent work on the training ground.

"It was always like that with Bryan (McLoughlin) and Alfie Wylie at Linfield.

"David knows what he wants and when you can give clear instructions it helps you achieve your goals.

"He knows what players he wants and how he wants them to perform and of course he has high standards and he's a winner.

"He's made a heck of a good start to his time at Ballymena and it will be interesting to see if he can get that first trophy and where he takes the club.

"I thought the signing of Kevin Braniff was an interesting one because it was a statement that Ballymena could attract a player of that pedigree and experience.

"Fans and players will look at that and think this club wants to compete with the best."

All successful managers are surrounded by trusted lieutenants who provide the right support and encouragement and Bailie can see a winning team in the United dugout.

"David is surrounded by good people who bring their own talents and skills to the set-up," he said.

"Bryan (McLoughlin) is as loyal a number two as you will find and I felt it was a great move bringing in Paul McAreavey.

"Paul is hugely respected and very highly thought of wherever he has been as a player, scout or coach whether at Linfield or Donegal Celtic.

"The guys have a lot of experience and hunger and I'm sure they can't wait for the final.

"David has also done well in picking up the strikers Johnny McMurray and Cathair Friel who are scoring plenty of goals and Tony Kane's been prolific as well.

"It's one thing bringing in a good player but it's another challenge getting them to gel and work together and he seems to have done that.

"There's a real bond there and a good understanding between the players."

Bailie was thrilled to see his old club lift the County Antrim Shield this month as he understands the supporters have suffered a few lean years.

"I was pleased for David (Healy) and everyone at Linfield, hopefully it's the start of a good period for them," he said.

"It wasn't just the result, it was the manner of the performance and the fact they beat Crusaders. It was a deserved win and they can take confidence from it. It was a great victory and performance. It's been too long for the fans to wait for something to shout about.

"David's (Jeffrey) tally of 31 trophies for Linfield was incredible, though I missed the last one in 2012."

Ballymena United goalkeeper Ross Glendinning, who was also brought into the Linfield first team by Jeffrey, says the 53-year-old's ability to get the best out of his players is extraordinary.

"What David brings is a winning mentality," said Glendinning, who is on loan from Linfield. "You only have to look at players like Tony Kane, William Faulkner and Cathair Friel to see how David gets them to perform and raise their game. They have been super and the best managers get that extra bit of commitment and quality from their players.

"The team has shown real desire and passion and I think the League Cup semi-final win over Coleraine at the Showgrounds was an example of that, it was a deserved victory.

"David is on 31 trophies so one more would move him above Roy Coyle. That's a big incentive for him and it would be a proud achievement but I'm sure it will be all about the players for him and helping the club win a trophy."

Whatever the future holds for Jeffrey - there are many exciting chapters to be written - it's difficult to avoid the reality that his greatest achievement will always be how he remained in the Windsor Park dugout for so long. Only a very special talent could take the punches and go again by rebuilding squads and keeping the hunger alive.

He's still the Irish League's Special One.

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