Belfast Telegraph

McAllister determined to see Blues boss Jeffrey sign off with a triumph

By Stuart McKinley

Mark McAllister doesn't care how Linfield win the league title, just as long as the Gibson Cup is back at Windsor Park at the end of next month.

And the Windsor Park striker sees that as a perfect way for departing manager David Jeffrey to end his 17-year reign in charge of the Blues.

Not only that, McAllister is keen to impress the club's next boss, in order to prolong his Linfield career beyond his current contract, which ends in the summer.

Before that, however, securing his fourth league championship medal is the aim for McAllister and as long as there is substance, he doesn't mind compromising on the style.

"We've six games to go and they are all massive," said McAllister, ahead of a crunch trip to Coleraine tomorrow afternoon.

"We know that there is every chance we'll need to win them all to win the league and now the performances aren't all that important – it's all about the points."

It's hard to argue with McAllister's sentiments. When the name of the 2013-14 champions is engraved on the base of the trophy it won't say how they won it, or who played the better football, just who amassed more points over the 38-game campaign.

After a summer of change at Windsor Park McAllister is one of only 11 men in the current Linfield squad who have a league medal in their collection.

And that, plus the fact that Cliftonville – their only rivals in the title battle – are the defending champions has McAllister putting the Reds down as favourites to come out on top.

"There are a few of us who have been here a while and have won the league before, so we know what it's about and we are relishing these last six games," said McAllister.

"There are no nerves on our part, probably because we're not the favourites.

"We see Cliftonville as the favourites because they have a settled squad, whereas we are still a work in progress and we've done well to be in the position we are.

"We've six games left and those matches will tell a tale.

"There can be no excuses either. With the split it means that we are all playing the same teams, so you can't look at anyone else and say that they've an easier run.

"It's all comes down to what you do yourself."

McAllister, who is still only 25-years-old, has experienced joy and pain during his five years with the Blues.

It took him over a year to win his first medal, after joining the club in 2009.

Three successive doubles made up for that, but there wasn't much to cheer about last term when a season blighted by injuries and suspensions brought a return of only seven goals in 36 games during a trophyless campaign.

That, however, has served to increase the former Northern Ireland under-21 international's hunger to add the league title to the County Antrim Shield, which was won a couple of weeks ago.

And with 13 goals in 30 appearances so far, the return to form is there for all to see.

"The last couple of years have been tough for me," said McAllister.

"I was sent off a couple of times last year and spent too long out suspended because of those.

"I had a couple of injuries as well and when the team isn't doing well on top of that it makes you feel worse.

"I've had a few niggles this season, but I've stepped up and when I've been in the team I've been happy with my performances.

"Matthew Tipton's been there putting me under pressure for my place and I've had to be patient at times when the manager has preferred him – and Matthew has done well when he's been in the team.

"I know that when I get in I have to push myself and do my job for the team, because this is the time of year when there are big games and you want to be playing in them."

With Jeffrey (pictured) in the dugout motivation has never been a problem for the Linfield players.

He has never been a man to settle for finishing in second place – indeed the league medal that he has on the end of a pocket watch chain is a silver one, rather than gold, to remind him of how it feels to be a runner-up.

And with nine titles won as manager of Linfield, his players are now galvanised by the announcement that Jeffrey is leaving, with the goal of making it a perfect 10 before he says goodbye.

"David signed all of us and it's up to all of us now to repay the faith that he has shown in us," said McAllister.

"The bottom line though is that we're trying to win a league title for Linfield.

"We are paid to perform on the pitch and the expectation from the fans is that we win the league every year.

"I do feel that David's announcement that he will be stepping down at the end of the season has eased the pressure on us.

"I think it has brought the club together and everyone is of the attitude that we're focused on these last few games, we're going to give it our all and that would be the perfect send off for David."

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