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David Jeffrey counting on Linfield perfect 10

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Time's up: David Jeffrey is nearing the end of his glorious 17-year reign as Linfield  manager

Time's up: David Jeffrey is nearing the end of his glorious 17-year reign as Linfield manager

Brian Little

Time's up: David Jeffrey is nearing the end of his glorious 17-year reign as Linfield manager

David Jeffrey has already brought us the most significant story of the Irish League season, but the final chapter of his own personal tale has yet to be written.

And the Linfield manager believes his shock announcement that he will leave the club at the end of the season, while there are still 10 league games to go, as well as the County Antrim Shield final against Crusaders, has given him the chance to make it a happy ending.

The entire football fraternity in Northern Ireland was stunned last Saturday afternoon when the Blues broke the news on their own official website that Jeffrey had informed the board of his decision to step down.

He is now on countdown to the end of his 17-year managerial career at Windsor Park.

Despite lifting 30 trophies he still has unfinished business. Winning the league title would make it a perfect 10 in his final campaign.

While everyone else's focus might be on the reasons why Jeffrey has decided to go, the timing of first the decision and secondly the announcement and who will take over from him, the man himself is thinking only about one thing – winning enough matches to make sure that he gets his hands on the Gibson Cup for one last time.

Even going head to head with Glentoran in his last Big Two derby isn't enough to sway his focus.

He will leave that to those in the Sky Sports studio ahead of tonight's live TV clash at The Oval, which comes on the same day that the Blues have placed an advertisement in this newspaper looking for Jeffrey's successor.

"I haven't even thought about this being my last Big Two match. For me it's all about going and getting the three points – that's the focus for me in every game from here on in," said Jeffrey.

"The significance of the occasion is not lost on me, it's the last time that I will manage a Linfield team at The Oval, but that is not the motivating factor.

"The simple fact is that I want to win the game."

As the news broke last Saturday lunchtime there were suggestions that the Linfield players' minds may be on other things when they ran out to face Ballinamallard United a couple of hours later.

If anything, however, it motivated them as they went out and won 6-0. That was significant for Jeffrey and he is in no doubt that the early announcement of his impending departure was the right thing to do.

"The timing of the announcement was geared towards the players," said Jeffrey.

"They don't have to face the pressure of being asked questions on the manager's future and if he will still be in a job at the end of the season .

"They can go out and play without that hanging over them."

Being focused on winning is nothing new for Jeffrey. The nature of the job, however, has always dictated that there were other things to consider along the way.

Now, with his time coming to an end soon, his mind is simply on what happens between now and the last Saturday of April, when his reign will draw to a close.

"All I have to concentrate and focus on now is preparing players and winning football matches and they can do the same," he said.

"You are always planning and looking at some short-term, medium-term and long-term things.

"At this stage of the season, in years gone by, I would have been thinking about players we would be targeting in the summer, about the players in my own squad who were coming out of contract and had an eye on the future.

"Now my future will only last as far as the end of April, so if there is a positive way of looking at things then it is that I am fully focused on getting the best out of these players, week in and week out until then, with nothing else to worry about."

And if you think that Jeffrey's has called time early in order to take the pressure off himself in the title race, with the Blues a point behind Cliftonville with a game in hand, that is anything but the case.

"The pressure is off the players in that respect, but I still chuckle when the reaction to us losing a couple of games is that 'the pressure is now on at Linfield'," said Jeffrey.

"The people who say that are people who don't know what it's like to be at Linfield.

"From the moment I arrived at Windsor Park as a player in the summer of 1982, to when I returned as assistant manager in March 1986 and then became manager in January 1997 there has always been immense pressure – it never goes away.

"The more successful you become the more the expectation level increases. The pressure from outside sources has never been greater than the pressure that I have always put on myself to bring success to the club.

"That is now my only focus for the next 11 games."

In the criteria for the manager's job Linfield have spelt out the need for a Uefa Pro Coaching Licence, ruling out former Northern Ireland striker David Healy.

The closing date for applications is Monday March 10, with the club looking to appoint a new boss soon after.

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