THE race finally ended on Saturday as Linfield claimed a 51st league crown at Windsor Park.
A dramatic 2-1 victory over Portadown was enough to send the Blues into an unassailable lead at the top of the Carling Premiership – they lead by 15 points with only four games remaining.
Jamie Mulgrew was the toast of Windsor with his 89th-minute winner, the midfielder pouncing on a defensive lapse from Brian Gartland before rounding Tuda Murphy and firing into the net.
Portadown striker Richard Lecky attempted to play chief party pooper when he silenced the international stadium with a well-taken goal four minutes from time.
It had cancelled Philip Lowry’s opener for Linfield in the 64th minute.
When the dust had settled on the grandstand finish, Jeffrey took time to reflect on another title success – his ninth since taking over the reins 15-and-a-half years ago.
He also hit out at his rivals who denigrate Linfield’s achievements.
“People might see this as being an easy job – it is the toughest job without any shadow of a doubt,” he said.
“If you don’t believe me go and ask Roy Coyle and he will tell you. Or ask Trevor Anderson or Eric Bowyer.
“This is a tough place to manage. Expectation levels are immense and continue to rise.
“Unless you have good people around you, inside and outside the club, you wouldn’t last
“It miffs me when people say it is easy for Linfield. It is dismissive.
“We have had tough challenges this season. Portadown were the better team for a lot of today’s game. Does anyone remember the day Cliftonville battered us?
“It was phenomenal performance from Cliftonville.
“So anyone who comes off with that clap trap doesn’t know what they are talking about.
“We work hard with the players to achieve consistent performances. It is well documented we don’t pay the top wages, people know that.
“We use the budget to chase a certain type of player who wants to succeed and win trophies.
“We have people here who want that.
“People don’t appreciate the sacrifice that the players have to make.
“I suppose what I do is give 110 per cent in all that I do.
“It involves three or four nights a week, which I have to do on top of my own job. It is what this job demands and deserves. If I am asking for the best from my players, then I have to give my best.
“We are all in the same boat –if you win games you win trophies, and if you win trophies you win contracts. If you are not successful you are not here - everyone included.
“I have to be able to look myself in the mirror every Saturday and say I have given my all in terms of coaching, preparation – everything.
“If I demand that of myself then I can demand that from my players. I do not accept second best and I will not accept it from players.”
Jeffrey praised the character of his players following their title success, not least midfielder Mulgrew who bagged the crucial goal on Saturday.
“Jamie epitomises what this club is about. It is about the squad,” Jeffrey added.
“Everyone likes their individual praise and applause, but the one thing about the players is that they all see the bigger picture.
“To take a different slant on it, none of them think they are the only player at this club./ They are part of a group.
“We respected Jamie’s decision to look at full-time football last summer and we gave him that time. But he has come back and repaid the club.”
This year’s title success is the club’s sixth Gibson Cup in seven seasons, with another potential Double on the cards with the Blues into the semi-finals of the Irish Cup.
Championship 1 underdogs Newry City stand in the way of their glory trail.
“Next Saturday is massive for us. Now we have won the title we can look towards that game,” Jeffrey added.
“We have Tuesday’s game but we can consider the cup now. But we won’t be letting up because we have standards to maintain.
“We can fully focus on next Saturday and I can give some competitive time to a number of players.
“We will look after ourselves, but there is a battle going on below us and it is fierce, so we know what to expect against Cliftonville.
“We will be sensible as well though.”