David Jeffrey the rock at heart of Linfield's amazing pursuit of glory
There's no doubting Linfield have had the X Factor when it comes to winning Carling Premiership titles in the past six years.
Victory over Cliftonville last Saturday all but secured a 50th title for the unstoppable Blues in their 125th anniversary year — which meant yesterday's coronation at Lisburn Distillery had a touch of the ‘after the Lord Mayor's show' about it.
The destination of this season's title was eventually wrapped up after this campaign's entertainers, Crusaders, made a real go of a serious challenge and kept it interesting.
Yesterday, the scene was set; bright sunshine, a bumper crowd of Bluemen and an emphatic victory. Warnings were given for the supporters to stay off the pitch, but as always it was ignored after referee Arnold Hunter blew the final whistle.
But one special ingredient was missing — the Gibson Cup itself, which will be handed over to club captain Noel Bailie and team skipper Alan Blayney on Saturday.
The celebrations were muted, even if a large turn-out craved for more. Boss David Jeffrey warned against a public display of joy with one league game and an Irish Cup final to follow.
For the fans that was a shame, for the players a sobering after thought on what has been a remarkable campaign.
Hats off to Jeffrey and his unrelenting squad. They deserve their plaudits and are now just 90 minutes away from a sensational fifth double in six years.
The pressure from the opening day against Ballymena United has been immense. Here was the club ‘supported' by hand-outs from the game's governing body, and if they didn't succeed, the snipers would take aim.
Linfield’s Management Committee looked as happy as the legions of fans who made the short journey and who knows, maybe Jeffrey will now have done enough to earn their unanimous support.
As is par for the course, as soon as the Blues suffer a wobble, there is a knee-jerk reaction and whispering campaigns begin in the corridors of power.
But, no sooner than they arrive, those jitters disappear and Jeffrey's men dig out results when it matters most.
How Jeffrey and his staff have shouldered the burden of demand — not expectation — is astonishing and admirable.
Opponents will bemoan, and envy their resources — and rightly so — but the management of those riches can never be underestimated. Jeffrey continues to lavish praise on his ‘babies' but without the daddy of all managers, they would have succumbed to the Crues.
This squad has the hunger and desire which should be envied up and down the country — and the X Factor Jeffrey continues to bring to the table is the most important ingredient in their recipe for success. Maybe his employers will now agree.