Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey loving life in the Sky Blues hot seat

 

Leading the way: Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey
Leading the way: Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Five years ago, many thought David Jeffrey's already legendary Irish League career had come to an end having announced his departure from Linfield after a 17-year stint at Windsor Park.

Back then he thought much the same. But here we are five years later with the 56-year-old having just led Ballymena United to their first top-two finish in the Danske Bank Premiership in 40 years and with designs on going one step further next season.

Indeed, when the Sky Blues approached him back in 2016 after the departure of Glenn Ferguson, it was an "out of the blue" offer Jeffrey admits, but it's one he has no regrets taking.

Since then he's worked the magic that chairman John Taggart undoubtedly wanted when he made the appointment, elevating Ballymena from mid-table obscurity to top-six challengers and creating a cup-winning environment that has seen them become European entrants and title challengers.

For someone who had potentially turned his back on management this time five years ago, there's no doubting he's loving life now.

"It's fantastic. Two European finishes, a clatter of finals, the first year we won the League Cup final and the European play-off final, a year later we were in the League Cup (final) again," beams the Newtownards man.

"Our league form has been really pleasing, that's been most pleasing how consistent we've been. We've had a few wobbles, and that's very understandable, but the likes of Jim Ervin and Anthony Kane for what they've contributed is remarkable. Well done to the players."

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While it might not be a trophy, finishing second in the league and pushing Linfield as far as they did will provide Jeffrey and his Ballymena players with no shortage of satisfaction and, most importantly, provides the template going forward.

For Jeffrey, however, Tuesday night's 4-3 win over Glenavon - which sealed their second-placed finish - was particularly sweet as dad Ken was in attendance to see them create history.

"That was a big one for me. Dad was here on Saturday and both boys, Gareth and Thomas, were home over Easter. Dad wanted to come back (on Tuesday) so my brother Billy had him here and I'm absolutely delighted he saw such a night of joy and celebration," admitted Jeffrey.

Their final league game against Crusaders is a dead rubber. Second place secured, in front of family, friends and fans alike, it'll be another party atmosphere at the Showgrounds this afternoon.

"What we've done as a club and a town and a group of folk is quite incredible," smiles Jeffrey.

"It's been a tough year but yeah, we've done fantastically well."

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