Opinion: Fascinating time in store after a remarkable week at Showgrounds

New manager David Jeffrey is welcomed to Ballymena United by club chairman John Taggart. Picture courtesy of Ballymena United FC.
New manager David Jeffrey is welcomed to Ballymena United by club chairman John Taggart. Picture courtesy of Ballymena United FC.

If the events of the past week at the Showgrounds taught us anything, it’s that the old adage that you can never rule anything out in football is true.

For all the calls - and they were getting increasingly vociferous - for Glenn Ferguson’s departure, how many people actually thought it would come now, with nine crucial games in Ballymena United’s season to come, rather than at the end of the campaign?

Leading on from that, as David Jeffrey ends his near two-year sabbatical from the game by replacing Ferguson, how many people thought they would ever see the day that would happen at Ballymena?

There have been enough column inches written and bandwidth used in relation to Ferguson’s sacking - and particularly the manner in which is was conducted - for me to add anything fresh to it.

The fact that he was the first Ballymena manager since Nigel Best in 2000 to be dismissed while under contract suggests that Ballymena’s Board believed that drastic measures were necessary to try to help preserve the club’s Premiership status.

But if Ferguson’s departure was met with approval by a majority of Ballymena fans, the same couldn’t be said when I broke the story in midweek that David Jeffrey had emerged as the frontrunner for the vacant post.

On the face of it, having the most successful Irish League manager of modern times both available and interested in the job, it would appear to be the proverbial ‘no-brainer’.

But, Ballymena United being Ballymena United, things are rarely as straight-forward as that. Some fans still take exception to Jeffrey’s allegations in 2007 that Ballymena supporters had used sectarian abuse in a game against Linfield. The IFA’s Disciplinary Committee ruled at the time that there was “no basis of fact” in the allegations.

That led to Jeffrey being subjected - and I witnessed this with my own eyes and ears - to some of the most vile, non-football-related personal abuse imaginable in subsequent fixtures.

Those wounds remain open for some fans but others take a more pragmatic view, stating that Jeffrey’s CV and experience make him the ideal - some would say the ONLY - candidate to revive Ballymena’s fortunes.

Even in recent days, as news of the appointment was rubber-stamped, there has been a noticeable thawing in the stance of some of those who would have ridiculed Jeffrey - a realisation, perhaps, of the magnitude of what Ballymena’s board have achieved in pulling off this remarkable managerial coup.

Any managerial appointment carries an element of risk, this one possibly more than most. While Ferguson’s tenure ended on a sour note, when he was appointed, he had the unequivocal backing of virtually all of the club’s fans - the same cannot be said for Jeffrey.

One final word on Ferguson; who would have thought that during the hugely promising opening months of his managerial debut job, when he was being touted as a possible successor to Jeffrey at Linfield, that his former boss might end up replacing HIM at Ballymena!

Even in more mundane times at the Showgrounds, and contrary to what some non-Irish League fans would try to tell you, events at Ballymena United are, to borrow a commonly-used phrase in these parts, worth a-watching.

But the appointment of David Jeffrey is on another level entirely - total box-office material, in Irish League terms.

It’s certain to be a fascinating few months in store.