David Jeffrey has warned his Ballymena United players they are playing for their futures in the remaining games of this season.
While the focus has been on ensuring that the Sky Blues clamber away from the relegation battle at the foot of the Danske Bank Premiership campaign, Jeffrey already has one eye on which of his personnel will be at the club next season.
“All you can ever do as a manager is give people opportunities and show you have a confidence in them - after that their responsibility is to do it on the pitch.
“The very first night I met the players there were three simple questions - the first was what is your best or preferred position?
“Even though I would have known where they played, I like players to identify what their best or favoured position is.
“The second question was where do you see your future and thirdly, has any clubs been speaking to you?
“To a man, every one of them said they hoped their future would be here.
“I’m taking them at their word and to secure their future they will have to continue to get results.”
Jeffrey highlighted the performances of goalkeeper Alan Blayney in his first two games in charge as an example of what he is trying to achieve.
“I know Alan extremely well and I know what he’s capable of. I have just told him to go and be what you truly are and be true to yourself and in the last two games he has been absolutely magnificent.
“I think what is helping the pair of us is that we have worked together before. He knows what I expect and he knows what to expect from me.
“There’s an excellent goalkeeper in there and I really wnat him to do well.
“We put a challenge to him, can he play to the fullnes of his ability and can he do it justice and he certainly has,” added Jeffrey, who has already begun his team rebuilding with veteran striker Matthew Tipton leaving the club by mutual consent.
“Matthew highlighted the impact that training twice a week and playing on a Saturday is having physically, and after discussion with him, Bryan McLoughlin and Gordon McCartney (Sports Therapist), we came to a mutual agreement to release him from his contract.
“Matthew understands that to play on a Saturday, players need to train through the week and was very forthcoming that he struggles with this due to his knee.
“Matthew has to be highly commended for what he has brought in his time here at Ballymena, not just on the pitch, but the experience he brought as a senior player to the dressing room.
“I also have the highest praise for him to come forward, as he did, to have an open and frank discussion about his role as a player rather than sit tight to the end of the season,” the manager added.
The momentum create by a draw and a win in Jeffrey’s opening two games will be slowed down this week after the announcement on Monday that Saturday’s scheduled game against Cliftonville has been postponed.
The Belfast side have three players called up for international duty at under-age levels and have exercised their right to request a postponement under Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) rules.