It’s not often that Glenn Ferguson is referred to as an apprentice — even at the age of 41 he was the master craftsman giving defences the runaround.
However, in managerial terms ‘Spike’ is very much a new kid on the block.
And his inexperience as a number one in the dugout is in stark contrast to his counterpart tomorrow, David Jeffrey, who is raising a glass to 15 years in charge of Linfield.
Ferguson and Jeffrey haven’t always seen eye to eye — particularly when Jeffrey brought the curtain down on Ferguson’s career at Windsor Park — but even the Blues boss’s fiercest enemies will have respect for the what the ‘special one’ has achieved.
Since succeeding Trevor Anderson on Saturday, January 4, 1997, Jeffrey has pocketed 28 trophies and Ferguson was part of his greatest ever side — the all-conquering clean sweep team of 2006.
How Ferguson would love a slice of that success in his new role as Ballymena United manager. For now, he will settle for three points in his first game in charge against the league leaders at the Showgrounds tomorrow.
“For any manager to be at a club for 15 years is quite an achievement,” admitted Ferguson. “But 15 years at Linfield commands respect because you know if you aren’t delivering trophies you’re out of a job.
“Sometimes I feel the media put the managers under pressure but it’s true that at Linfield success is expected from the fans to the players to the manager. David has won five doubles in six years and yet the pressure follows him around.
“I think with a record like that you would be entitled to assume that your job is safe. People can criticise the current Linfield team or compare them to teams of yesteryear but at the end of the day they are five points clear at the top of the league so they are doing something right.”
In contrast to the trophy-laden years at Windsor Park, Ballymena United, despite their strong, loyal fan base and impressive stadium, have been starved of success.
The despair that comes with a trophy famine — their last silverware was the Irish Cup in 1989 — hangs in the air like a particularly nasty smell in the Braid but at least Ferguson’s appointment, alongside fellow former Linfield favourites Lee Doherty and Norman Kelly, has given rise to hopes of a more productive time for the club.
“We’ve had good training sessions and the players have done everything I’ve asked of them,” added the Linfield legend. “But a lot of work still needs to be done and although I’d like to bring one or two players in, finances will dictate that.
“We have been conceding too many goals and the Donegal Celtic game was another example of where we are falling short. We will be working hard in that area.”
Ferguson is also keen to talk to star striker Gary McCutcheon who will be out of contract in the summer.
“We’ve spoken on the phone but I need to talk to Gary in person,” added Ferguson. “Naturally, he is a prolific striker and no manager wants to lose their best players. Gary has been a star man for United and hopefully we can sort something out as soon as possible.”