Belfast Telegraph

I'm hungrier than ever to win trophies, says Ballymena boss Jeffrey

Prize guy: David Jeffrey lifts the League Cup in 2017
Prize guy: David Jeffrey lifts the League Cup in 2017

By Graham Luney

David Jeffrey says he relishes the big Cup finals now more than ever in his incredible managerial career.

The Ballymena United boss and legendary former Linfield supremo may have won 32 trophies as a manager but he maintains his thirst for the big occasion has never been stronger.

Tomorrow night at Windsor Park, Jeffrey will go chasing trophy No.33 when his side wrestle with Linfield in the BetMcLean Cup decider.

And the man whose winning record at the Blues included nine league championships and seven Irish Cups is fired up for another glory shot.

Jeffrey steered the Sky Blues to a League Cup win in 2017 and after United lost last year's decider to Dungannon Swifts, he's even hungrier to savour success.

"I look forward to the big finals even more than ever," said Jeffrey. "I'm 56 now and been blessed with the success I had at Linfield. I never thought I would go back into management, then Ballymena came along which I didn't expect. You enjoy it increasingly because of the players.

"It is more enjoyable now because the older you get you appreciate things more. The night we beat Crusaders in the (League Cup) semi-final was very exciting and with each final you look forward to it even more. The players are all part of that."

Jeffrey will warn his players they will need to be at the peak of their powers to topple Linfield.

"We are punching above our weight but we went to Seaview and did very well against the league champions," he added.

"We will need to be at our best on the day and if that happens we have a chance. We are delighted to be in this final for three years running and while we aren't here to make up the numbers we know exactly the battle that we are in for. Linfield are a very talented team and are leading the Premiership.

"I could wax lyrical about the strengths but I just want us to give our best."

Jeffrey, whose memorable moments in his career include the famous Setanta Cup win in 2005, is currently undertaking an exciting rebuilding job on Warden Street.

He's brought young, hungry players to the club but observers are surprised at the rate of progress. United appear to be the only club challenging Linfield in the title race and no one would have made that prediction in August. With an Irish Cup quarter-final looming at Crusaders, the stakes are high but the players don't look like taking their eye off the ball.

"It's an absolutely ginormous achievement for this club to make it to a third successive League Cup final and I won't be apologetic about it in any way," added Jeffrey.

"It's a phenomenal achievement and the players have done exceptionally well. We keep setting standards and expectations and hoping the players will respond. To go to the league champions in the semi-final and win a tight game was a fantastic achievement and I'm incredibly proud of our League Cup record.

"This season we didn't really set targets but consolidating a top-six place was important and we wanted to go on the same journey clubs like Crusaders and Glenavon have been on. If you can qualify for Europe it gives you greater resources to compete.

"This year we went out and got hungry young men who wanted a chance to play regularly and understood competition. The players share our vision and James (Knowles) is an example of that as he's signed a two-year contract with a club for the first time because he believed in what we are doing.

"We can only go as far as the players take us and they have a real desire to succeed. We want to crack Europe and do well in cup competitions."

Belfast Telegraph

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