Belfast Telegraph

David Jeffrey: Irish League summer football is not simple answer

 

Full-on: Going full-time would help Irish League sides in Europe, says David Jeffrey
Full-on: Going full-time would help Irish League sides in Europe, says David Jeffrey

By Stephen Alexander

David Jeffrey insists that switching to a summer season wouldn't have any impact on Irish League sides' performances in European competitions.

Jeffrey watched his Ballymena United side receive a footballing lesson from Malmo FF in their Europa League first round tie, with the Swedish league leaders storming to an 11-0 aggregate win.

And while Crusaders, Cliftonville and Ballymena's progress in the early rounds of European competition has sparked fresh debate on the issue of summer football, Jeffrey believes that only by switching to a full-time status can Irish League clubs hope to compete against bigger names on the continental stage.

"We were playing against a phenomenal side - we played out of our skins in both games and it was still 11-0 on aggregate," said Jeffrey.

"Could we have done any better if we were playing summer football?

"Could Cliftonville have done any better? Or Linfield? Not a chance.

"We are playing against teams who are full-time and who have better quality players who are also into their season.

Sign In

"While I can understand the argument, and why people want to look at what we can do and what can we change, the only way we are ever going to compete in Europe is if we go full-time.

"That's the bottom line. If money is invested so we can improve the players we have here and also then bring in players who are of a quality of the ones we're playing against.

"That's the long and the short of it - a changing of the season doesn't suddenly magic things up and it doesn't suddenly mean we're going to be able to change away from a format of two nights training a week.

"We ask our players to do a third night on their own away from the club - we ask them to take ownership.

"This is where people need to start thinking and looking at the reality of it," said Jeffrey, who had to watch on as the Swedes produced another scintillating display at the Showgrounds.

Jeffrey felt the scoreline flattered Uwe Rosler's (left) men a little.

"I think the 4-0 scoreline was a wee bit harsh - I don't think it was a penalty and on a different night, if we had had our shooting boots on, we could have had one, maybe two goals," he added.

"But therein lies the comparison in standards because they are absolutely clinical - their first goal in particular was ridiculously brilliant.

"We wanted to give as many players as possible an opportunity to play European football.

"Every player who was within the squad has now had European experience and that will stand them in good stead.

"For us this has been a fantastic couple of weeks - the first time in our history that we've progressed in Europe.

"The players have an awful lot to be proud of and to take credit for.

"I told the players to look at what we've experienced over this past period and I would want very much to repeat that experience.

"We're down to three places in Europe next season so the only way we can repeat it is to either come first or second in the league or win the Irish Cup.

"It's going to be a massive challenge this year - Linfield and Crusaders will be strong, obviously Cliftonville and Glenavon, Larne have come to the party and Glentoran are talking about going full-time, like Larne, and there are other teams who will be battling to get into the top six so it's going to be challenge but we'll think about that further down the line.

"For now it's a matter of taking a step back and reflecting and preparing ourselves for the new season.

"Sometimes people tend to move on too quickly without reflecting on what has been achieved," added Jeffrey.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph