Opinion: Jeffrey leading from front as he spearheads United revival

Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey urges his team on during today's 2-2 draw with Cliftonville. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey urges his team on during today's 2-2 draw with Cliftonville. Picture: Press Eye.

One of the main pluses of David Jeffrey’s arrival at Ballymena United has been the instant injection of positivity he has brought to the club.

Yet while many supporters are heralding a revival in the Sky Blues’ fortunes, Jeffrey himself has remained the calmest person around the Showgrounds as he steers United through his first priority - the battle against relegation from the Danske Bank Premiership.

The suggestion at Saturday’s post-match press conference that a draw against Cliftonville was another big step towards securing United’s top-flight status was met with a swift rebuttal from the manager.

However, the evidence of the first three games of Jeffrey’s tenure suggest that, barring the most catastrophic of collapses in the closing weeks, Ballymena will line up in the top flight come August.

There’s no doubt that the Showgrounds is a different place on a matchday now than it was a month ago, in a season where the atmosphere has veered somewhere between total apathy and downright toxic.

There has almost been an attitude among some United fans that any points gained against the likes of Crusaders, Cliftonville and Glenavon are considered bonus points, ahead of the real business of the post-split games where a club’s league position can change very quickly on the back of a couple of results.

If Ballymena can apply the same sort of levels of attitude and hard work in those last five games as they have done in the opening three, I suspect that the remainder of the season will be spent looking upwards at seventh place and that possible Europa League play-off spot, than at what’s going on below the Sky Blues.

It’s fascinating to watch Jeffrey in action on the touchline.

But one thing stands out head and shoulders above anything else from his dugout mannerisms and it’s what I alluded to in the introduction to this article - positivity.

There was one great example on Saturday when Tony Kane over-hit a set-piece from a threatening position, the ball drifting harmlessly out of play for a goal kick.

Jeffrey arched his body backwards, looking towards the sky, in the knowledge that a potential goal-scoring opportunity had been wasted. Yet straight away, he sprang back up, hands clapping and urging Kane: “Next time...next time.”

It’s refreshing to see a manager continually cajoling his players in a positive manner, trying to squeeze those extra few per cent that could be the difference between winning and losing a game.

I’ve spoken to a couple of players, at completely different times, about the new manager and both used exactly the same phrase: “He makes you feel 10 foot tall when you go out to play.”

Jeffrey has totally immersed himself in all things Ballymena United to the point where 10 feet tall most certainly won’t be the height of his ambitions.