Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders every bit as hungry and ambitious as Blues, says Ward

By Graham Luney

Sean Ward has swapped the red, white and blue of Linfield for the red and black of Crusaders this summer, but he says there is nothing to separate the two clubs in terms of ambition and hunger.

The 33-year-old signed off his Blues career in style by lifting the County Antrim Shield, Irish Cup and league title last season and now he's plotting more glory days with the Shore Road side.

Crusaders had won back-to-back titles before Linfield, under the guidance of boss David Healy, ended their title drought and tasted championship glory for the first time since 2012.

The Blues will now be hungry to stay at the top but they can expect another ferocious challenge from Stephen Baxter's men, and Ward has been impressed with the winning mentality he has discovered at Seaview.

Ward, who also won two league titles and one Irish Cup in Glentoran colours, feels the Crues and Blues are cut from the same cloth.

"At Linfield there is always that drive and will to win and I have seen that at Crusaders," he said. "The top clubs want to win the big prizes, and I'm a greedy player, I want to win and be associated with clubs that have that desire.

"I've got those standards, and while Crusaders don't have Linfield's incredible history of success, they do match them today in terms of hunger and ambition.

"That hunger comes from the manager and staff and the players need to feel it. I can see the winning mentality is there and the Crues want to win the Gibson Cup back. It's been a long time since the Crues won the Irish Cup too.

"I was fortunate to have four years at Linfield but the last year was my most successful. Yet even during the tough times the hunger was there. Standards had been put in place and everything was geared towards us winning.

"But there's no doubt the Crues are hurting and the title was only lost in the second last game of the season. Something similar happened back in 2005 with Morgan Day and Linfield were very hurt by that experience, so much so that it created a period of domination for them.

"I'm not saying that will happen with Crusaders but I can understand how teams are hurt by experiences and how it can be extra motivation to go again."

While the Crues missed their inspirational skipper Colin Coates through injury, Linfield really turned on the power when the heat was on, and that big game mentality at Windsor Park proved crucial last season.

Ward added: "Linfield won 43 out of 45 points in the run-in and that was incredible. Crusaders had a few injuries and fell away at the finish but Stephen (Baxter) has added a lot of experience to the squad and we have a bit more strength in depth.

"It's going to be a very exciting season. Ballymena United and Cliftonville have signed well, while ourselves and Linfield competed well in Europe.

"I've read the comments about summer football and clubs playing in May or June but I'm not sure whether it would raise the overall standard of the league.

"We would have the same players but there's still a chance clubs could be more competitive in Europe.

"The game is not going full-time. The majority of the clubs in the south are full-time and that's the big difference. I was interested in Larne's moves to adopt a full-time philosophy and it's maybe an approach clubs should look at."

• Former Glenavon striker Robbie McDaid is on trial with National League North side Gainsborough Trinity.

The 20-year-old former Leeds United youngster moved onto Lincoln City, York City and Chorley.

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