In Pictures: Linfield fans celebrate Irish Cup final win
Linfield 2 Portadown 1
Published 10/05/2010 | 02:49
Portadown players felt that Linfield had luck on their side in the Irish Cup final and they were right up to a point.
However, when you reflect on Linfield’s 2009-2010 campaign it seems ridiculous to even think of uttering the word.
There was nothing lucky about David Jeffrey’s side rising from the depths of despair to claim yet another double — the fourth in five seasons.
You need more than luck to win doubles, especially when a cold, harsh winter at Windsor Park threatened to cause serious damage.
Make no mistake about it — jobs were on the line and P45s were being prepared.
On a few occasions this season Jeffrey felt he was only one or two games away from losing his job. If that had happened, would we have seen the Linfield players spray around the champagne in the spring sunshine?
Back in December when performances were well below the standards demanded by the club, and after the County Antrim Shield final defeat to Crusaders in January, Jeffrey could hear the guns being loaded as he stood in the firing line.
It was a time when trigger happy club bosses could have ended Jeffrey’s spell at the club.
But the trigger was never pulled. The Linfield management committee made the right call and they have been rewarded for showing patience and understanding.
After everything he had achieved at the Blues, Jeffrey deserved an opportunity to rescue his side from another disastrous season and he did just that. Jeffrey said after the game that his future at Linfield would always be determined by a higher power.
He certainly had good reason to pray throughout a turbulent season and those prayers were answered.
“When it’s time for me to leave here God in heaven will remove me but he’ll decide when it’s time for me to go,” said Jeffrey.
“The situation was very serious. My head was on the chopping block. The chairman and Paul Weir met with me to say we are here to advise you that your position is being discussed.
“What does that mean? One game, two games, three games? The night we were beaten by Crusaders in the County Antrim Shield final I texted my son Gareth in England and Thomas stayed with me that night.
“I said to him the next night I’m expecting to go for my tea. He said ‘you’re joking daddy’. I said ‘I’m telling you now, I thought I had one game, that’s the god’s honest truth, I thought I had one game.
“Crusaders were by far the better side and I thought that’s it.
“It also goes back to a cold, very very long night in January when we had a two-hour meeting in the changing room.
“There was harsh words spoken, very direct and clear with no messing about. But it was also a good, frank exchange and the young players must have realised that being at Linfield is not a walk in the park — you’ve got to deliver.
“If you don’t deliver you’re not here. I said to them you are exactly the same as me and I am exactly the same as you. If we don’t deliver, we’re not here. They responded magnificently.
“I didn’t feel then we had a chance of doing the double. The league was our bread and butter and we had to dig, grind and scrap.
“This is no pity party — I have never asked anyone to feel sorry for me. I am not criticising the management committee. This is life at Linfield and in some ways it’s a back handed compliment because no-one had done three doubles on the trot or a clean sweep. That’s the standards set. I have no gripe, criticism or need for pity.”
During his prayers, Jeffrey may have made mention of a certain Peter Thompson who arrived in January and breathed fresh life into Linfield’s season.
It was an Irish Cup final so he had to score. Philip Lowry’s goal was a fitting finale to his outstanding season. Like others, the former Institute man had to prove he was worthy of the Linfield jersey.
Goalkeeper Alan Blayney should have kept out Kevin Braniff’s free-kick but he redeemed himself with outstanding saves to deny the striker and Wesley Boyle.
When Johnny Topley’s low drive rebounded off the base of the Linfield post it was clear lady luck was wearing a Linfield jersey.
Portadown were right to say they should have had a penalty in the dying seconds when Michael Gault tripped Tim Mouncey but Boyle’s lunge at Paul Munster could also have produced a spot-kick.
“We knew players were technically good before they came here but you don’t really know their character,” added Jeffrey.
“Philip Lowry and Mark McAllister weren’t expected to win things. In my time, there were players who came here from other clubs who were excellent but they just couldn’t cut it here.
“I talked to them about the jersey and the badge but if you don’t have the right person wearing it, it counts for nothing.”
As for where this Linfield team goes from here, Jeffrey added: “We have only discussed one player who I want to stay next year.”
Could that be the man who lifted the Irish Cup for a seventh time on Saturday?
There were people who said Noel Bailie was finished and there were people who said David Jeffrey was finished.
To those people the message is simple — be very careful what you wish for.