Linfield boss Jeffrey hurt by critics
At first glance, Australia cricket captain Ricky Ponting and Linfield manager David Jeffrey appear an unlikely pairing.
However, they must be going through similar emotions at the moment.
Both are leaders of men in their respective sports. Both have been targeted by boo-boys recently and both have had to respond to claims that their teams no longer have an aura about them.
While England captain Andrew Strauss sees the Aussies weakened by the absence of Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath, Linfield are no longer viewed as the invincibles they were in 2006.
Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson, who scored almost 90 goals between them in one season, are no longer at Windsor Park.
Also gone are Paul McAreavey, Oran Kearney, Alan Mannus, Thomas Stewart, Mark Dickson, Pat McShane and Tim Mouncey.
To add to Jeffrey’s frustration, players he has targeted have chosen not to join the Windsor Park club.
The Blues squad has needed major surgery and the manager has needed to make big calls, none bigger than the release of the legend Glenn Ferguson this summer.
It’s been a bitter pill for the fans to swallow, but no individual is bigger than the club, from the manager down to any player, and trophies will soon be back at Windsor Park.
Jeffrey is just desperate to win prizes again this season after Glentoran lifted the one that matters in May.
“What has happened over the last few weeks with respect to the criticism has hurt me,” he said.
“It did sting me, but there are huge demands and pressures on all of us at Linfield and if we can’t cope with that we shouldn’t be here.
“If you don’t like it get out. The pressure is greater at Linfield than anywhere else, but I am not here to win a popularity contest — I am here to bring trophies to Linfield.
“This is the biggest club in Ireland and that’s a fact.
“Everything is amplified whether you win or lose. Criticism is all part and parcel of life at the club. It comes with the territory. If anyone cannot see that, get out of the kitchen.
“I’ll get criticised for making decisions — and I can take if it is reasonable and fair — but I’ll do things my way.
“I have got a job to do and I’ll do it. At Linfield we have always had the same targets since I became a player at the club.
“Success is measured by where we finish in the league and every other trophy is a bonus.
“We didn’t just lose the league last season, we lost the Irish Cup and League Cup as well.”
With Portadown back where they belong in the top flight and an improved Crusaders squad joined by the likes of Cliftonville, Coleraine and Lisburn Distillery, the new Carling Premiership promises to be another roller-coaster ride.
It could well be another two-horse sprint, but no-one is saying that now.
Jeffrey, who takes his troops to Coleraine tomorrow, added: “Portadown and Crusaders have made excellent signings while Glentoran will be hungry to retain a tile for the first time in 40 years.
“That is a huge incentive for them, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“There is a real hunger in the squad to win the title back. Everyone is focused on that and determined to put a smile back on fans’ faces.”
Linfield will travel to Coleraine without injured strikers Curtis Allen and Kevin McHugh.