Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey up for No.1 spot - on and off the pitch

By Graham Luney

A Happy New Year to you all and I hope your hangover isn't too intense tomorrow morning.

You're more likely to find me wearing a pair of slippers and clutching a mug of hot chocolate than living it up with party animals in Edinburgh – which I recommend by the way – but I digress.

Our footballers can't go crazy tonight either as they must perform tomorrow in the first round of Danske Bank Premiership matches of 2014.

We have sympathy for them and the sacrifices they have to make but sure that's why they are on £20,000 a week!

Many of us will have New Year resolutions, whether it's to cut out the caramel squares, hit the gym more often or throw away the cigarettes and alcohol.

Of course, it's easy to give up smoking... I've done it a hundred times!

2014 promises to be a massive year in the history of Irish League football with change ahead.

How radical that change will be, no-one knows but the more you hear how divided opinion is with regard to summer football, the more you start to think that maybe what we have is the best we can hope for.

Perhaps it can't get much better than this. The league has a hardcore loyal following and always will. The product will remain the same no matter what the weather is like. You can't turn an amateur set-up into an all-singing, all dancing superleague featuring the game's greatest players!

When I was a young lad, going to a match on a Saturday was a great source of entertainment. Kids today can be kept entertained in so many other ways.

But to attract younger fans to the game they should be allowed in free up to the age of 12 with a paying adult. They just might want to keep coming back like the rest of us.

As we look ahead to 2014 it's hard to imagine we are going to stumble on another saga like the Jimmy Callacher one, but our game never disappoints those who relish a bit of controversy.

So, in no particular order, here are my top 10 wishes for 2014.

One: I want to see Milltown, the home of Warrenpoint, lit up like a Christmas tree. If they don't get those floodlights sorted soon fans will have to go back to their cars and switch all the headlights on, full beam. On a serious note, it's no laughing matter for fans who have perhaps travelled a long distance to find themselves being kept in the dark (pun intended).

Two: It's great to see the green light given for the refurbishment of Windsor Park but too many of our grounds look tired and uninviting. Facilities have improved but I'd like to see Glentoran, Crusaders and Coleraine accelerate their moving plans. I know fans have an emotional attachment to the ground they call home but is there enough money coming in to keep clubs in business? Let's see significant funding towards new stadiums or improvements to existing ones.

Three: Huge decisions are going to be made with regard to the future of the Irish League and I hope the right ones are made. There's a widespread consultation process under way and change is inevitable. If you pardon the pun, let's think outside the box and be brave.

Four: I want to see more of our top young players like Jordan Stewart (pictured) and Rhys Marshall get a chance to shine across the water. I'm also still baffled as to why Joe Gormley hasn't crossed the channel yet. Many of our young players are good enough to make it in the professional game – they just need clubs to show more faith in them.

Five: I want to see a thrilling title race. Cliftonville strolled to the championship last season but many people are predicting a more open race this time round. The Reds and Crusaders need to keep the pressure on Linfield, who are in a healthy position and possess the strongest squad.

Six: Whatever happened to the County Antrim Shield Final? Did I miss that? What a complete and utter farce that was. Let's get the game played and stop arguing about it. Toss a coin... just for the craic!

Seven: Wouldn't it be great if our clubs got along much better (see number six). When people running football clubs start squabbling with each other all they are doing is shortchanging the supporters. Keep messing them around and they just might walk away and leave you to it. Without them there is no game.

Eight: Clubs can't sit back and assume that youngsters are going to come flooding through the turnstiles. Let's see them be more pro-active in reaching out to young people through coaching or work with schools and youth organisations. Good cross-community work is being done but there is always a need for more.

Nine: Back to one of our favourite subjects – referees. They will continue to make mistakes but let's all wish the standard of officiating at our matches continues to improve. Hopefully, more refs will use the media to explain their decisions to fans and communicate more effectively with managers and players.

Ten: My one last wish for 2014 is to see Linfield manager David Jeffrey handed a record deal. Let's be honest, if Jedward, the Cheeky Girls and Rick Astley can hit the charts then so can David. It's obvious the big man's got talent. With a little voice manipulation in the studio he could be transformed into Van Morrison. The obvious title for a new single could be 'Have I Told You Lately That I Signed Jimmy Callacher'.

There's never a dull moment when Jeffrey's around. As for his New Year resolution... need you ask?

Belfast Telegraph


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