David Jeffrey has utmost respect for old pal Stephen Baxter

David Jeffrey and Stephen Baxter are two giants of the local game who need no introduction to one another.

By Steven Crawford
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 10:00 am

The duo made their name at Linfield during their distinguished playing careers.

And the success they tasted as players has followed them to their managerial careers.

Both are fierce competitors who love winning but Jeffrey says there is utmost respect between the pair.

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Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey

“We go back a long time. I was instrumental in bringing him to Windsor Park as a player as I approached him on behalf of Mr Coyle,” said the Ballymena United boss.

“So we played together as young men, we played together at Linfield and then we became rival managers.

“Obviously we’re both highly competitive and want to win, but we’ve a lot of time for one another.

“The job he has done at Seaview is incredible., I don’t think people will ever fully appreciate it.

“The fact that he was only really going in to help them out at the start, but what he has achieved and built them up to the Championships they have won, Irish Cup and the whole shooting match, it’s been an incredible job.

“When we played against one another - I was at Ards and he was still at Linfield - games were very competitive.

“That has continued and we’ll be competitive on the day no doubt.

“Along with that though there will be that absolute respect.”

The League campaign may not have panned out how Jeffrey would have like due to several factors but he is hoping to finish the season on a high with an Irish Cup win and European qualification.

“At the start of the season we were away to Carrick, they were down to ten men and we were winning 1-0 and we managed to get beat,” he explained.

“We were staring at a relegation battle early in the season.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t playing well, we didn’t have the squad available.

“We lost David Parkhouse and Josh Kelly early on and then hand niggles after niggles.

“Over the piece we have been able to get players back and were able to strengthen in the window so the second half of the season has been much more satisfactory.

“To get to the final is an unbelievable achievement as on that day in Carrick I never would have thought we would have got here.

“It’s great to get to a final but strip it all back, it’s a direct route into Europe.

“That landscape of Irish League football has changed massively.

“For part-time clubs now to be able to compete then Europe every so often is a must.

“It’s great it’s the Irish Cup and it’s the blue riband trophy and the big day out, but the hard fact is if you win the match you get yourself into Europe.

“The buzz around the club is ridiculous. No-one thought we would get here.

“Against Larne we were 2-0 down but we dug in and came through it after the penalty shootout, then we had the delay with the semi-final, so to have got here now is brilliant and the town has really embraced it.”