Leroy Millar will just keep getting better, says proud David Jeffrey
David Jeffrey believes the performance of homegrown midfielder Leroy Millar epitomised the spirit of Ballymena United as they put themselves into a strong position for Europa League progression with a 2-0 first-leg win over NSI Runavik.
The Cullybackey-based midfielder, a product of the club's Youth Academy, became the first United player since George Beattie in 1984 to find the net in continental competition, while Jude Winchester also scored to give the Sky Blues a commanding two-goal lead before they head to the Faroe Islands for Thursday's return fixture.
"It's lovely to hear the crowd sing about Leroy - 'He's one of our own'," said United manager Jeffrey.
"He has matured and matured and matured, got technically better, physically better, tactically more aware and mentally, in terms of his concentration, he has got better.
"For Leroy to be from the town and to score that goal, the contribution this young man has made and continues to make... the thing is, he still hasn't reached his full potential.
"One of his greatest attributes is his humility - he is one of the most humble young men you will meet."
Former Kilmarnock starlet Winchester also marked his return from an injury-plagued latter part of last season with a stunning goal against the Faroese side and he will be a key player for Jeffrey as Ballymena attempt to build on finishing Danske Bank Premiership runners-up last campaign.
"We had a couple of training sessions during the week where Jude maybe over-ran the ball where he either should have passed or shot and I told him to be decisive at the end of whatever part of it and my goodness was he decisive with how he finished during the match," said Jeffrey.
"Jude had a torrid time at the end of last season with a back complaint which was so frustrating for him and he still has a little bit of an Achilles problem so we have to protect him from that but as someone said to me recently, he just oozes class."
Jeffrey believes that the victory - only United's second European win in the club's history - was just reward for the Braid outfit's progress on and off the pitch.
"The club has been excellent in terms of how they have helped us with our preparation," he said.
"Nothing has been too much trouble and I have to make a special mention of Iain Black and Jonny Irwin - the administrative support off the pitch has been phenomenal before you even come to John Taggart (chairman), Don Stirling (vice-chairman) and the rest of the board.
"It means so much to the crowd and they were phenomenal. It probably wasn't the greatest first half yet we got applauded off.
"The fans understand and encourage appropriately and we have a fantastic set of supporters who play a massive part.
"It was lovely to have to walk over to both sides of the pitch, for the first time ever, to applaud all our supporters and that was a fantastic feeling.
"But the message is simple - we're not going to big this up, it's only half-time in the tie and Runavik are in the middle of their season.
"We have now given ourselves a chance but it's nothing more than that at this stage.