Ballymena United: Jeffrey knows Sky Blues still have work to do

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey.
Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey.

Ballymena United boss David Jeffrey is not getting carried away before his side kick-off their league campaign against Crusaders at the Showgrounds tonight.

Jefferey’s men won the League Cup for the first time last season and also qualified for Europe after finishing fourth in the league last season - but the former Linfield manager says his feet are well and truely on the ground.

“We are at least a season or two ahead of ourselves,” Jeffrey said.

“To finish fourth and to get into Europe and win a major trophy was way beyond our expectations but the players did tremendously well.

“I think for us it’s about consolidation (this season), about saying we can get that top-six place again and be challenging for Europe and the other trophies.”

Jeffrey has brought in Michael Gault, Stephen McAlorum, Emmett Friars, Andrew Burns, Steven McCullough and Conor Brennan over the summer. And he believes they will add depth and strength to his aquad.

“We feel that we have a stronger squad this year than last which is part of our progression.

“But while we may appear to have a stronger squad on paper, games of football are won out on the pitch.

“We wanted to sign good people, because you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.

“They are also good players and you can see this year we have been able to sign established players who have a pedigree and they understand what winning is all about.

“And hopefully that will filter to the rest of the squad.”

And the former Linfield manager knows this will be a huge season for the Showgrounds outfit and that they will want to build on the success they had last season.

“We have a great bunch of boys here, and the culture of the club is good and we have a rapport with the fans,” he said.

“There are so many positives that are there but the underlining thing is about success on the pitch and the players delivering that success.

“And if you deliver that on the pitch consistently you will stay in the team.

“And we have said to the players ‘we are no longer a surprise package’ and sides will know what to expect.

“Before teams may have entered games with Ballymena and not thought much about us - but they will now look at what we did last year and give us the respect we deserve.

“They will look at us differently.

“Last year we were a team fighting relegation and this year we are a side who won a big trophy and played in Europe.

“But that is the challenge for the players because they have to understand that we have to keep moving forward and maintain that.”

Jeffrey is hoping that his team avoid a repeat of last season’s season-opening 6-0 drubbing by the then champions at Seaview.

“Brian McLaughlin and I after 10 or 15 minutes thought ‘we’re doing OK here’ but suddenly we were smashed for six.

“But for me, we are going to be facing a reinvigorated Crusaders team on Friday night.

“I remember when Brian and I were at Linfield after we won three trebles we then lost out in the League and the Cup and that seemed to galvanise everybody again.

“I’ve no doubt that will be the sense of feeling that will be with Stephen Baxter and his players,” he added,