Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey eyeing title with Ballymena United

David sets sights on big prizes but knows he faces all new challenge

By Stuart McKinley

David Jeffrey has never been one to shirk a challenge. Those who played against him can testify that as much as anyone else.

And he hasn't shied away from a daunting mission after taking charge at Ballymena United - to transform the club from perennial bottom-six battlers to title challengers.

That's something that hasn't happened for over 30 years, but the club's bosses believe that they now have the right man in charge to take them back to the future.

After winning nine league titles among his 31 trophies in 17 years as Linfield manager, Jeffrey knows the way to the top, albeit the route he'll have to take with Ballymena will be different to the path he navigated at Windsor Park.

"It is a different type of challenge for me, although not compared to the early days at Linfield," said Jeffrey.

"At that time the club wanted success, but it had to be success on a budget.

"As the years went by and we achieved success and money came in, that changed incrementally.

"Ballymena want success. When I met the chairman and vice-chairman it was explained to me that the club hasn't been realistic challengers in the league since the early 1980s and they want to be back there, although they know it will take time.

"Although it is a different challenge it is one I am looking forward to."

Ironically Jeffrey's last trophy win as Linfield manager came at the Ballymena Showgrounds, when the Blues beat Crusaders in the 2014 County Antrim Shield final.

It was also after an Irish Cup defeat to the Sky Blues, in February 2014, that Jeffrey decided to step down as Linfield manager, with the announcement coming just hours before a league game against Ballinamallard United a week later.

It's now sky blue ribbons rather than royal blue that he'll be attempting to tie to trophies and after watching his former Linfield striker Glenn Ferguson lead the club to two Shield triumphs and two other cup finals in his four years in charge, Jeffrey was surprised to get the opportunity.

The 53-year-old also surprised himself with his desire to take the job.

"I was contacted by the vice-chairman and asked if I would meet the club for informal discussions," said Jeffrey, whose first match in charge will be away to Crusaders on Saturday. "I was so unsure that I asked to have time to think about it - it really was a case of taking baby steps."

All that changed, however, once the initial discussions took place in the middle of last week.

Indeed, the appointment may have taken place earlier but for Jeffrey taking care of some personal issues over the weekend.

"The chairman and vice-chairman were very impressive and very professional in how they dealt with things," he added.

"The 'informal meeting' turned into a two-and-a-half hour meeting."

Jeffrey can't bring in any new players until next season, but he has already made a key signing at the Showgrounds.

He will be joined in the dug out by his former Linfield assistant Bryan McLaughlin, who had agreed when he joined Glenavon earlier in the season that he could leave if another opportunity to work with his old pal presented itself.

"I am delighted that Bryan is coming along with me," said Jeffrey.

"It was important to get that piece of business done and done quickly."

Belfast Telegraph


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