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David Jeffrey will shine again, says Crusaders boss Baxter

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In charge: David Jeffrey gets used to his new surroundings at Ballymena United ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face champions Crusaders at Seaview

In charge: David Jeffrey gets used to his new surroundings at Ballymena United ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face champions Crusaders at Seaview

In charge: David Jeffrey gets used to his new surroundings at Ballymena United ahead of tomorrow’s trip to face champions Crusaders at Seaview

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes David Jeffrey will prove to be a success in his new job as Ballymena boss...but is determined to ensure the most eagerly awaited comeback in Irish League history does not start with a bang.

After almost two years away from the dug-out the ex-Linfield supremo Jeffrey makes his return tomorrow at Seaview against a Crusaders side on course to win back to back titles.

The table topping Crues are seven points clear of nearest challengers Linfield and have a game in hand. They are on a high.

In contrast Ballymena have lost their last five league games which led to the dismissal of Glenn Ferguson, even though he led the Braidmen to County Antrim Shield success earlier in the season.

Jeffrey has arrived at the Showgrounds with a record that boasts 31 trophies from a 17 and a half year spell as Linfield boss, though once the action starts at Seaview all that will be forgotten.

Earlier this week Jeffrey labelled Baxter 'as the most accomplished manager in the Irish League'. The admiration is mutual.

Baxter, now the longest serving manager in the top flight of local football following Ronnie McFall's departure from Portadown, says it is fantastic to have Jeffrey back.

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"Since David left Linfield we have had good conversations, exchanged phone calls and had laughs together," said Baxter.

"He is a top man and I am delighted he is back in management. When I heard the news, I sent him a text saying 'Welcome back to the madhouse'.

"It is great for the league because he is such a character.

"From a management side he is the master tactician and of course brought incredible success to Linfield.

"With them he was very good at setting up teams to win football matches and silverware and he was capable of getting the best out of players due to the way he treated them. You only have to talk to his ex-players to realise that.

"I am sure he will do a fine job at Ballymena. He will go in and assess the current squad and I'm sure in the summer he will make key signings in his bid to move the club forward.

"I can see him being a success and I wish David every success except when his team come up against us, starting on Saturday."

When the Belfast Telegraph revealed last week that Ballymena's number one target to replace Ferguson was Jeffrey many inside the game predicted the deal would never happen.

Not Baxter.

"When you are a football person and a manager being out of the game for the best part of two years is a long time," he said.

"I imagine once Ballymena came in for David and he talked to them about the ambitions and plans for the club and that they wanted him to take them there, he will have weighed it up and thought there are good people here, he can work with the budget, work at a ground with fantastic facilities and do something special with the club."

Baxter added that he felt 'sad' for Ferguson and his 'best friend' Lee Doherty who was assistant boss at Ballymena, but hopes and believes both will return to the game.

For Baxter, who has done a remarkable job at Seaview, another title beckons.

He states: "In terms of the title race we have to keep focused. There'll be a spotlight on David on Saturday, but we must look after ourselves and concentrate on the task in hand. Our aim between now and the split in the league is to put as many points on the board as possible and have as big a gap between us and the rest as possible. Then we'll take it from there."


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