Ballymena manager Jeffrey plans to make improvements in baby steps

Manager David Jeffrey hails Ballymena United's best finish in 40 years

Ballymena manager David Jeffrey will adopt a cautious approach to the club's development despite their cash boost.

The Sky Blues have secured second place in the Irish Premiership, guaranteeing a Europa League place for next season.

Ballymena can expect to earn at least 200,000 pounds from their involvement in European club football's second tier tournament.

"There is a reward, there are benefits, there's no doubt about that," said Jeffrey.

"We'll look at other clubs like Crusaders, like Cliftonville, like Glenavon who have benefitted from that reward but we will continue to do it in our incremental and baby-step way."

In his first season in charge, Jeffrey led United to the Europa League when they beat Glenavon in a tense play-off but the club missed out on European football this campaign after losing to Cliftonville in a play-off semi-final last season.

Watch: Sky Blues beat Coleraine to close in on European spot

The former Linfield boss expects the club to take a similar financial approach to next year and has warned supporters not to expect an immediate cash injection for the first team squad.

"When we qualified two years ago, we didn't get the money at the start of the next season - it was this season we got it - and it was great stewardship from the chairman and the board, we divided that money over two years," explained Jeffrey.

"We weren't just going to throw it all away in one go because if you do that then you can sink very quickly. So there was good sound planning and business management."

Jeffrey added: "Bryan McLoughlin (assistant manager) really takes care of all the wages, he knows to every penny what everybody gets!

"So we'll continue to try to strengthen, obviously we want to be competitive, we will want to bring other players in but it's not suddenly that we have this quarter of a million (euro) suddenly handed to you - it doesn't work like that."

Last season's Premiership champions Crusaders have used their European cash-injection to introduce a more full-time set-up at Seaview while Linfield and Glenavon have also benefitted from an increase in prize money from Uefa competitions in recent seasons.

Shane McGinty and Tony Kane celebrate Ballymena's win over Glenavon
Shane McGinty's late winner against Glenavon clinched Ballymena's first top-two finish since 1980

Ballymena clinched a third-place finish last week, which in previous seasons would have been enough to secure European football, but had to wait until the penultimate round of league matches to be guaranteed that they would not have to negotiate the play-offs again this campaign.

"When you are fifth or sixth or maybe even seventh you are looking for that lottery because you want to be part and parcel of that," Jeffrey conceded.

"Yet, earlier this week I was wishing that we still had the old boring days when third place guaranteed you European football but you have to take two steps back and say 'well for the good of the game, it brings such an exciting end to the league' and I'm just delighted that this weekend we don't have to worry about that.

"We have secured out-right second well and best wishes to everyone else going through to the qualifiers now because we have been there."

Ballymena will host Irish Cup finalists Crusaders at the Showgrounds on Saturday in their final game of the season.

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