Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena boss Jeffrey has Premiership title in his sights - although maybe not this season

David Jeffrey has outlined his ultimate aim is to win the Premiership title with Ballymena United but has admitted it may be too early to think about achieving that lofty ambition this season.

Last term Jeffrey, who won 31 trophies as Linfield boss, sprinkled his magic stardust on the players at the Showgrounds by helping them finish fourth in the NIFL Premiership, qualify for Europe and lift the League Cup.

It was a stunning effort given they were fighting relegation the season before when he joined them with a couple of months of the campaign left. Now some Ballymena supporters are dreaming of making a bid for the club's first top flight league title.

Ahead of tomorrow night's kick-off at home to Crusaders, Jeffrey is keen to manage expectations although he adds that the title winning feats of Cliftonville and the Crues from 2013 to 2016 offer hope to sides like Ballymena.

He said: "Of course winning the league we would love that and that is the reason Brian McLaughlin (assistant manager) and I have gone back into it, but for anyone to imagine that this season, all I will say is that it took us three and a half seasons to win a league with Linfield.

"And with the greatest respect to Ballymena United when we took over at Linfield we weren't taking over a team fighting a relegation battle!

"Last season our first aim was to ensure we would be nowhere near that. When we reflect objectively on our time at Ballymena we are certainly much further down the road in this journey than we expected to be at this stage. We didn't expect to be playing in Europe, we didn't expect to win a major trophy but we have done that. Having achieved that, that's what you continue to aspire to.

"We want to be competing again for that top six place, for Europe and in the cup competitions.

"The league for me has always been the bread and butter, so we have said to the players can we in the first instance consolidate because I think that is vitally important and then let's see where that takes us.

"If you think back 10 to 12 years ago where Crusaders and Cliftonville where, for me they offer great encouragement and are the role models for others to try and follow."

Jeffrey is content with his summer signings, Conor Brennan, Andrew Burns, Emmet Friars, Michael Gault, Stephen McAlorum and Stephen McCullough, but is well aware the Crues have also impressed in the transfer market.

When the teams last met, in April at the Showgrounds, Jeffrey's side won 3-0 aiding their quest for European football and hitting hard the title hopes of Stephen Baxter's men.

Jeffrey says: "Crusaders will still be hurting from losing out to Linfield in the title race last season and Stephen with his signings has really thrown down the gauntlet and signalled a sign of intent.

"We will be coming up against a highly motivated team. We couldn't have asked for a tougher start."

Belfast Telegraph

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