Belfast Telegraph

No doubts Linfield manager David Jeffrey is a born winner

By Graham Luney

How's your job going? Are you enjoying it? Don't be too disgruntled ... things could be a lot worse. You could be a football manager – now there's a thankless task.

Every top manager in the world is just three games away from a crisis. That's a fact, as Rafael Benitez would say.

In this social media age bosses have never had it so tough. Supporters have less patience than ever and so many more opportunities to let off steam whether it's on Twitter, the radio or Internet forums.

And fans do like a good moan. Listen to one of the radio phone-ins on a Saturday night and you'll hear more crying than an X Factor show.

Fans want instant success, instant gratification with little thought given to the reality that it takes time for managers to put their stamp on teams.

We are now into the 'sacking season' and the dismissal of Nigel Clough at Derby County means that only 42 of the 92 managers at English clubs have been in their jobs for over a year.

Fifty clubs have changed managers in the past year.

Where is the continuity and stability there?

The Irish League isn't immune from this 'crisis culture' we are living in. Linfield manager David Jeffrey is the most high profile example of a man who is under enormous pressure to mastermind a win in every game.

After a lacklustre start to their league campaign the Blues were rooted to the bottom for the first time under his leadership, an incredible journey that has featured over 900 matches and nine league titles and is still going strong 16 years on.

As I said in an earlier column, supporters should be careful what they wish for and Jeffrey has turned the ship around. Six wins on the bounce has seen the Blues surge up the table and they can even hit top spot if they win at Glenavon this weekend and Portadown fail to beat Warrenpoint Town.

When the going gets tough, the tough have to get going and that's what Linfield are doing. Eleven players have left the club over the last year and with that number of personnel changes it was perhaps not surprising that they didn't click into gear straight away.

Portadown are threatening to put together a title challenge and I hope they do but I'm going to predict they will fade in the second half of the campaign as suspensions and injuries take a toll. I hope I'm wrong though because a strong showing from the Mid-Ulster clubs has made the league more compelling.

Glenavon are performing heroics as they are a club which is more familiar with relegation concerns than title ambitions, but if any manager loses three matches in a row they are on thin ice again.

When Arsenal lost their opening Premiership match Gunners fans wanted Arsene Wenger out. Now they are top of the league and he's more popular than Santa Claus.

Liverpool are looking at giving Brendan Rodgers a new contract as his men are second in the table, but if he loses his next three matches the anti-Rodgers brigade will be in full voice again.

You need to have a thick skin if you're a manager, particularly at a club as big as Linfield or Glentoran. The late Alan McDonald had a sensitive side to his nature and he took criticism to heart. It hurt him and supporters should never forget that managers feel the anger, despair and frustration too.

They must always have belief in their own ability and try to stay calm under pressure but it's not easy. Winning league titles isn't easy either. Everything has to be earned through hard work.

The more I hear the fans' reaction to Manchester United's current woes the more I conclude that Sir Alex Ferguson would never have had a chance at Old Trafford. He joined United in 1986 but didn't win his first trophy until 1990.

He was given time to build his own team but will David Moyes be afforded the same luxury? Not when the supporters want instant success.

As for Linfield, Jeffrey's critics are quiet at the moment but we all know they are waiting to make their voices heard once again.

Belfast Telegraph


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