David Jeffrey up for one final fight as Linfield target title

David Jeffrey after annoucing he is to leave his position at the end of the season
David Jeffrey after annoucing he is to leave his position at the end of the season

It was an announcement that could have gone either way.

It could have galvanised the troops, or deflated the weary soldiers.

Thankfully, David Jeffrey’s bombshell news that he will stand down as Linfield boss at the end of the season acted as a catalyst for his players.

A 6-0 hammering of Ballinamallard United was just the response the manager would have been hoping for.

Goals from Philip Lowry (2), Matt Tipton, Andy Waterworth, Ivan Sproule and Ross Clarke keeps the Blues one point behind Cliftonville at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.

The Windsor Park men have a game in hand over the champions, with the title in their own hands.

The destination of the Gibson Cup will be decided over the next 10 games.

It could be a rousing finale for outgoing boss Jeffrey, or a subdued farewell for the man who has stood tall as manager for 17 years.

“The players did the talking today. It was a very difficult thing to communicate to the players, especially on a match day,” Jeffrey said of his sudden announcement prior to kick-off.

“It couldn’t have been done any other way, and the players were exceptional today.

“It is a massive decision. I am here over 17 years, and when you actually think I was here 10 years as a player. I played over 368 times for the club, and I captained the club.

“I came back as assistant manager and then manager, so it is the guts of 30 years.”

Jeffrey added: “The reason and the rationale will eventually come out, and that’s not some hidden message.

“But I just felt this was the correct time. I have a peace about it – a contentment.

“Now I can focus totally on winning the league. And the players don’t have that distraction.

“If I take myself out of the picture, then it’s just football for the players to think about.”

Jeffrey has won 30 trophies since taking over from Trevor Anderson in January 1997 – just one shy of Roy Coyle’s record.

Jeffrey can still eclipse that milestone before the end of the season – Linfield have next month’s County Antrim Shield final to come against Crusaders, while they remain at the head of a pulsating title race.

“If we waited to the end of the season, the club has to move on,” Jeffrey added.

“The club can now prepare for a new successor, and I can concentrate on football and winning the league. We don’t have to ponder my future.”

Jeffrey admits he has no intention of walking away from football at the end of the season.

“I am still as committed as ever. I am stepping down as Linfield manager, but I am not stepping down from football – definitely not,” he added.

“I don’t know what I will do. I am 51, I have my pro licence and I love working with players. I have loved it since I was a child, so I will stay in the game. I will think about that when the end of the season comes.”

Linfield chairman Jim Kerr praised Jeffrey’s pivotal contribution to the club’s history.

“David was a great motivator, one of which we are unlikely to see again. His record speaks for itself, and the fans showed their appreciation today,” he said.

Vice-chairman Billy Kennedy added: “David’s record as a Linfield manager stands supreme, with six League and Cup doubles in seven years unequalled and a feat that is unlikely ever to be repeated.

“As a player for a decade in the 1980s and manager for 17 years David has been an illustrious stalwart for the Club and in club management we will never see the like of him again.

“In my 41 years on the board I have encountered seven Linfield managers – in my experience David was the best.”