Belfast Telegraph

Pat Fenlon leading race for Linfield job

By Graham Luney

The cat is out of the bag now – let the speculation over who will become the next Linfield boss reach fever pitch.

Front-runners inevitably emerge and former Blues favourite Pat Fenlon is leading the charge.

Ballymena United boss and Linfield legend Glenn Ferguson is another strong contender but former Shelbourne, Derry City and Bohemians manager Fenlon, who resigned as Hibernian boss in November, has a passion for the Blues, is keen to return to the game and is available.

Linfield chairman Jim Kerr suggested the club was keen to make an appointment within a month and it's possible to conclude that negotiations with Fenlon would not be protracted.

The Dubliner joined the Blues in 1994 and speaks fondly of his two-year spell at Windsor Park where he was affectionately nicknamed 'Billy'.

The man who won five League of Ireland titles as a manager was back at Linfield recently to support Michael Gault's testimonial lunch and he spoke fondly of the club, stating: "It's a great feeling being back at Windsor Park as I have so many great memories from my time here.

"I've gone on record previously as saying that my time here was probably the most enjoyable time I ever had in my playing career, so this is a very special club to me. Since I left Hibs I haven't had any involvement in football. I'm just taking a break, to be honest, and we'll see what happens when we get to the New Year. Football's a funny game and you never know what'll happen next.

"Of course, you miss the day to day involvement with football. I've been involved in football a long time, first as a player and, more recently, as a manager and it does get a bit boring at times when you're not involved in the game."

The reality we are now digesting is that Jeffrey's reign as Linfield manager is almost over – the club was keen to move in a different direction and Saturday's announcement was the best way to reveal the separation.

So much for love in the air after Valentine's Day? This particular relationship, while retaining plenty of affection, is coming to an end.

Jeffrey's most intriguing comment after watching his side batter Ballinamallard United 6-0 was: "The reason and the rationale will eventually come out."

It would be a gross understatement to say Jeffrey would be a hard act to follow but Linfield will now hope the club doesn't suffer the same hangover which continues to torture Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson's departure and David Moyes' arrival.

Blues legend Noel Bailie MBE (pictured), who won 10 league championships and eight Irish Cups at Linfield under Jeffrey's guidance before retiring in 2011, said: "Whoever takes this job now must be a big, brave man.

"It's not a job for someone who is a shrinking violet. David's record is phenomenal and I am surprised by the news but his successor has a big job ahead.

"Whoever is appointed cannot turn around in six months time and say they weren't aware of the demands and expectations.

"It's certainly not a job I could do. The one thing I wanted to do was leave the club on my own accord and on my own terms and I hope David has been able to do that. Only he can answer that.

"David is not only a wonderful manager but a great person and I can remember him always being happy to offer advice and encouragement to players who might have been dealing with personal issues that would have affected their performances.

"He cared about the human being, not just the footballer and he gave people his time.

"I'm still doing some scouting for Linfield but I haven't spoken to David in a while and I had no inkling of this decision. There's always a sadness when things come to an end but there are always many great memories – and I include the nights out as well as the trophy wins!"

Jeffrey confirmed that, while his spell as Linfield manager is coming to an end, he loves the game too much to turn his back on it. He looked relaxed after the match. He looked like a man who had just had a considerable weight lifted off his shoulders.

The speculation over his future can stop now and be replaced by speculation over his successor.

Who wants the hotseat?



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