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David Jeffrey sets fresh target for Ballymena United after disappointing 19/20 campaign

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David Jeffrey

David Jeffrey

PMAKER

David Jeffrey

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey has called it straight, outlining that his sole ambition this season is to finish in the Danske Bank Premiership's top six and give the club a shot at qualifying for Europe.

While other managers may be coy about their targets for the new campaign, Jeffrey's plain speaking has let his players know what is required on the pitch and the former Linfield supremo has also opened up about off-the-field issues affecting the Irish League.

Not playing in the County Antrim Shield, Ballymena's first competitive fixture since losing the Irish Cup Final to Glentoran in July will be their League opener at derby rivals Coleraine on October 17.

"After the Irish Cup Final, we had two weeks off and then at the behest of the players we started training again," explains Jeffrey.

"The players were really energised by how they did in the Irish Cup and are determined to make a good start to the new season.

"It is going to be very competitive and we will go into the campaign with one simple target which is for us to try our very best to finish in the top six in the League and to give ourselves a crack at qualifying for Europe.

"Everyone has seen how well Coleraine and Linfield and, to a lesser extent, Glentoran did in Europe and the finances that have come their way with that and the aim for Brian McLaughlin and myself and the players is to give ourselves the best chance possible of making Europe."

On Saturday, Ballymena hosted Queen's University in a pilot fixture at The Showgrounds, trialling a detailed operation with a limited number of home fans.

On the burning issues of spectators being allowed into games and financial aid for clubs here, Jeffrey says: "I think everyone knows that I am a senior social worker and, for me, the top priority will always be the health and safety of people.

"The health and wellbeing of all is paramount and if that can be protected and maintained with limited crowd numbers then bringing those numbers in should be considered.

"Ultimately we are in the hands of the NI Executive but I hope the football authorities and government can have sensible conversations in the coming days and weeks.

"In terms of the fans who won't be at games, I hope that a streaming service can be provided for them. I believe that the viewing figures for the Irish Cup Semi-Finals and Final were very good which shows there is a market.

"I would also add the Irish FA and government need to step in to help out.

"If we are talking about Northern Ireland and the communities within it, the Irish League plays a big role in that.

"When you think back to the Troubles, it was the Irish League and little else that kept going, playing an important role in society and it still does to this day. I do believe the IFA should be helping the clubs in these tough financial times, through money they receive from UEFA and FIFA, and I feel the NI Executive also has an important part to play where our game is concerned."

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