Crusaders hitman David Rainey is targeting league title glory this season and he feels the Shore Road men are well equipped to break the Big Two monopoly.
Rainey’s goals — nine already this campaign — have fired the Crues to the top of the table and earned the striker the Carling Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Player of the Month for August.
That’s the sort of form that Stephen Baxter’s men are going to need if they are to take the Gibson Cup to Seaview for the first time since 1997, but while Rainey believes he and his teammates can achieve that feat, he knows it’s too early to start thinking so far ahead.
“We’ve had a great start and I think that we have the ability to win the league, definitely,” he said.
“We have a slightly bigger squad than we did last year and that is going to be a big help because Glentoran and Linfield have a lot of quality players that they can call upon. We are definitely capable of winning the league though.
“We did well last season but just fell back but this year I think we are better equipped to do it.
“It’s too early to start looking so far ahead but certainly we have had a great start, we’re top of the league and it’s up to us to keep that going.”
A big factor this season already has been the fact that Crusaders finally managed to beat Linfield after going so close on many occa
sions in recent years.
If they are to capture the league crown they will have to take points off the Big Two regularly.
“We should have beaten them last year and really gave them a game most of the time but just fell short,” he said. “But we’ve already beaten them now and those are the types of results that show how good you really are.”
And while the Crues are flying at the minute, Rainey feels there is still a lot more to come.
“We are winning which is the most important thing but I think we haven’t yet hit our best in terms of football played,” Rainey added.
“I suppose results are the most important thing but Crusaders fans have now come to expect us to dominate teams and play good football and whenever that clicks in we are going to be even better.”
In collecting his award, Rainey paid tribute to his teammates, adding: “It’s a personal award, but you don’t get them if the team around you aren’t playing well.”
Ryan Brown, meanwhile, won the Carling NIFWA’s Championship Player of the Month for his performances between the sticks for Larne, having conceded just one goal in six games.