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Ervin: Big Two isn't as big as David Jeffrey's return

By Stuart McKinley

Published 12/03/2016

Reunited: Jim Ervin is looking forward to working under David Jeffrey again after nine and a half years together at Linfield
Reunited: Jim Ervin is looking forward to working under David Jeffrey again after nine and a half years together at Linfield

Jim Ervin played in numerous Linfield v Glentoran battles over a period of nine and a half years with the Blues.

Today, however, he will play in a game that has taken on a higher profile than the Belfast Big Two clash that will be going on across the city at the same time.

A Crusaders v Ballymena United contest wouldn't usually take on greater significance or importance than what is considered as the bigger fixture in Northern Ireland football, but the context of today's Seaview tussle puts it on top of the pile.

And it's not because Crusaders are defending champions and league leaders.

In fact it has little, if anything, to do with the Crues at all.

It's the character who will rally the troops in the away dressing room that has given the match added importance.

David Jeffrey is back in Irish League management with the Sky Blues and the spotlight is shining brightly on the man who won nine league titles in a 17-year reign as Linfield boss.

"Big Two matches are always special," said Ervin, who signed for Jeffrey in 2004.

"I wouldn't say that they aren't as big as they were but over the last few years, with Cliftonville and Crusaders both winning the league, they aren't as dramatic.

"This weekend, with David being back, there is a lot of focus on his first game and it maybe has overshadowed the Big Two a bit because it doesn't get much bigger than facing the champions on their own ground, which is a big task for him."

The Ballymena job itself is a big task too. Glenn Ferguson led the club to a final in each of his four seasons in charge, winning the County Antrim Shield twice.

There were defeats in a League Cup and Irish Cup decider, with a lack of progress in the league cited as the reason for his sacking just less than a fortnight ago.

The bar has been set higher for Jeffrey than any other Sky Blues boss in the last 30 years and Ervin sees that as a measure of how driven his new manager is.

"David is a big character to be coming back into the game," said Ervin. "I would give him a lot of credit for accepting the job when a lot of people were questioning why he would take it because he wouldn't be able to do what he did at Linfield, he wouldn't have the money that he had there, but the fact that he has taken it shows his strength of character.

"He could have said 'no thanks' but he's shown he's not that type of person.

"It probably would have been easier for him to turn the job down and say that he has nothing left to achieve, but he is taking on a job where he has to build on the success that Glenn Ferguson had."

The 'getting to know you' process will be more straightforward for Ervin than most of his team-mates, but there is the fact that he never thought that Jeffrey would return to the game to get his head around.

"It was a bit strange being at training on Tuesday night and David coming in," said Ervin.

"I played for him for nine and a half years at Linfield and I never thought I would play for him again, but that is the mystery of football. You never know what will happen around the corner and it's nice to see him back."

Belfast Telegraph

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