IRISH LEAGUE: Stephen Baxter urges players to ignore hype surrounding David Jeffrey return

David Jeffrey (left) and Stephen Baxter
David Jeffrey (left) and Stephen Baxter

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter can appreciate the hype surrounding David Jeffrey’s return to management – but has urged his players to detach themselves from the media circus.

Former Linfield supremo Jeffrey is back in football following a two-year hiatus.

The 53-year-old left the Blues in the summer of 2014 following 17 years at Windsor Park – and after claiming 31 trophies.

On Saturday Jeffrey will lead out new club Ballymena United at Seaview to face Baxter’s champions.

It is a baptism of fire for the former Linfield chief, and the fixture has earned plenty of interest from fans of both clubs – and further afield.

But for Baxter – whose Crues sit seven points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership – it is just another day at the office for his side.

“It is great to have someone like David Jeffrey back in local football. He is a character and football needs characters,” Baxter said.

“But from my point of view I have to concentrate on a game of football and trying to get three points.

“Understandably there has been a lot of media hype surrounding David’s return to football. I have fielded quite a few phone calls from journalists asking for my opinion on it.

“I can appreciate the interest in Saturday’s game. David is an outstanding manager whose record at Linfield speaks for itself.

“He is a great motivator and he will be looking to get the best out of Ballymena. It is a new challenge for him, managing a different club.

“I am not surprised David has taken over at Ballymena. They may be in the bottom half of the Premiership, but they are a top team with great facilities and plenty of ability.

“I am also sure David will get the financial clout he needs to progress the club.

“I texted him when he got the job and I wished him well. I wish him every success, but obviously not on Saturday.”

Crusaders remain on course for a domestic double this season.

Not only to the Shore Road men boast a healthy lead at the top of the Premiership – and with a game in hand over their rivals – but they are also in the semi-finals of the Tennent’s Irish Cup where they will meet Glenavon next month.

“We are not getting carried away. We are just ticking one game off at a time,” Baxter said.

“We have five games before the split and we want to keep on winning. So we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”

Baxter will have Josh Robinson – who had a trial with English League One club Scunthorpe United this week – and Declan Caddell back from suspension for Saturday’s game.