LEAGUE CUP FINAL: Jeffrey in familiar territory but still striving for success

Things have been looking up for David Jeffrey's Ballymena so far this season. 'Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Things have been looking up for David Jeffrey's Ballymena so far this season. 'Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

David Jeffrey departed Linfield in 2014 as one of the Irish League’s most decorated figures but comfortable with a decision to walk away from football management.

Now, around 11 months on from his return to the game as Ballymena United boss, he is preparing for the familiar scene of cup final week.

Jeffrey won the League Cup on six occasions as Linfield boss but walks out this weekend at Seaview aiming to make club history as the first manager to lift the prize for Ballymena United.

“I had no intention of ever going back into management,” said Jeffrey. “I’m single-minded and don’t care what people say.

“A cup final with Ballymena is totally different, there are all the experiences with Linfield with regards to preparation and how you do things, that’s just part and parcel of the things you bring to the job.

“But this is totally different, we didn’t expect to be in a cup final so quickly, if truth be told and the run we’ve gone on to get to the cup final had me pinching myself.

“So that story has really built it up, I’ve got to say I’ve had to be very strict with myself to make sure we haven’t thought too much about it until last week in terms of the pre-match meal and everything.

“You’re always nervous before a cup final, but I am particularly before this one.

“After the preliminary discussions I wanted to know if it was right for me and for Ballymena and, much like when I decided to stand down from the Linfield job, it was right for both parties.

“It gave me an enormous challenge and, if truth be told, it was one of the few clubs I could have gone to so it has been a neat fit.

“It was definitely the right fit at the right time.”

Jeffrey admits league progress has been his primary focus since arriving at The Showgrounds - with knockout benefits extra inspiration.

“We set our stall out right at the beginning of the season, the league was going to be our bread-and-butter and if we got any sort of cup success that would be a bonus,” he said. “Since the inception of the Premiership, Ballymena have never broken into that top six.

“If you want to test yourself against other players, it’s where you finish in the league and I want my players to be top-six players.

“That obviously gives us the chance of a European place and that gives you the chance of increased revenue.

“The clubs I look at as examples are Crusaders, Cliftonville and Glenavon who not so long ago were not at the heady heights but they built incrementally.

“The one thing that makes me so proud is that we were able to identify young men who had a hunger and desire and who wanted an opportunity and they have been remarkable.”