David Jeffrey was just 34. Too young, some would say, to take charge of the biggest club in the land. But Jeffrey did not think twice.
He wanted the job and when it was handed to him on a plate he gobbled it up quicker than a starving man in the wilderness dished up a roast dinner.
Fifteen years on he is still Linfield manager, the longest serving boss in the club’s history.
Bluemen and women are the most demanding you could imagine, so for Jeffrey to be celebrating his 15th anniversary this weekend is a remarkable achievement.
Most managers in the Irish League come under pressure after one poor season.
Jeffrey faces the heat if his team suffer ONE poor result.
But like his musical hero Bruce Springsteen, he’s still very much the Boss and shows no sign of wanting that to change.
And with Linfield top of the Carling Premiership, there are no signs that Jeffrey’s astonishing trophy winning reign will end anytime soon.
In the past six seasons, big Davy has guided the Blues to FIVE league and cup doubles, and in the 2005-2006 campaign inspired his players to achieve a clean sweep of every bit of silverware going.
It’s a far cry from when Jeffrey was appointed the replacement to Trevor Anderson, who had stunned local football by taking over at Newry.
Back then at the start of 1997, the Blues were going through a transitional period with Portadown the champions and Crusaders set to succeed them.
Jeffrey, now 49 but forever a larger than life character, recalls: “I remember many people in football being shocked when Trevor Anderson left the manager's job at Windsor Park to go to Newry.
“The great past chairman Billy McCoubrey asked me to look after team affairs then for the match at Portadown on the Saturday (the Blues won 2-0) and then on the Monday night I was offered a two and a half year contract.
“In some ways I was surprised because there were other more established managers in the Irish League at the time who were considered to be in the running but I also knew myself that I felt I could do the job.
“It never occurred to me not to take the job. I wanted it.
“When I left Linfield as a player for Ards, Paul Malone gave me a coaching job and it was there that my preparation for being a manager started.
“I was doing my coaching badges and then became assistant manager at Larne before doing the same at Linfield.
“In that period under Trevor I learnt all about the expectation at our club from a managing point of view, the players we had in the squad and how the club ran as a whole. It was a good learning experience.”
And one that has held him in good stead.
“As a manager at Linfield the pressure is intense. My longevity is pretty simple. When you are in charge at Linfield you have to deliver trophies and we have consistently achieved that,” he says, with a sense of genuine pride.
“How do you win trophies? By having very good players and the performances of my players through the 15 years must be commended. They have been brilliant. My part in their performances is identifying their qualities and bringing them to the club in the first place and then working with them on the training pitch but to do all that you need a very good support staff and I'm fortunate to have that at Linfield. If I didn't have good men around me, it would be a struggle.”
At the beginning of his time as manager, Jeffrey not only had to cope with earning the respect of the players but had to achieve success with a drastically reduced budget to the previous regime. That success was a little while in coming with Cliftonville winning the title in 1998 and Glentoran the year later.
Jeffrey was close to getting the sack.
“At the end of my second full year in charge Glentoran won the title. At half-time in our final game at Seaview the chairman Billy McCoubrey said to me in a supportive way that he felt there would be difficulty in me keeping my job.
“I replied that the board had to do what was the best for the club.”
Wisely they kept DJ and the glory has kept on coming, though there was one other occasion, more recently, when he felt the end was nigh.
“A couple of years ago I was told by board members that my position was being discussed,” he said.
“This had followed a run of poor results. I did think at that time that this could be it, but again I was kept on and since then we have won more league titles and Irish Cups.” So, does he ever see the day when he will leave Windsor Park?
“I was 34 when I got the job and now I am 49. I spent 10 years as a player with Linfield, six months as an assistant manager and now obviously 15 years as the boss which means I've spent more than half my life working for the club.
“I never once dreamed when I got the job that I would be lucky enough to be Linfield manager for this long.
“As for leaving Linfield, I’ve never wanted to do that. That's not because I didn't think that I could do a job elsewhere or test myself at a higher level, it's just that I enjoy this job and love the challenge of helping Linfield achieve and maintain success.”