Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Crusaders Legends to take on Liverpool Legends

Crusaders Legends will take on Liverpool Legends tonight at the Shore Road venue (7.45pm), before a Linfield great, Noel Bailie, could celebrate his 1,000th appearance for the Blues at Seaview tomorrow.

It’s a special weekend for fans of the local game, with minds drifting back to memorable occasions.

While Liverpool and Crusaders fans will recall famous European Champions Cup games from the 70s, Bailie may get the chance to hit his own golden milestone in the Carling Premiership clash.

Tonight, Glenn Dunlop, Glen Hunter and Syd Burrows will mix it with Anfield legends such as Phil Neal and Alan Kennedy.

But Linfield have their own legend who has edged the club to the brink of its 49th league title.

Supporters could be talking about Bailie (pictured) tomorrow afternoon — and Crues boss Stephen Baxter says fans will still be singing his praises in 200 years.

Bailie’s name will feature permanently in the history books and if the Blues grasp the Gibson Cup it will spark a very special double celebration for the legend.

Baxter played alongside and against Bailie during the defender’s illustrious 23-year career at Windsor Park and he will never forget going toe-to-toe with the eight-times title winner.

“I can remember Noel coming into the Linfield team as a young boy,” said former Linfield favourite Baxter. “He started his career on the left hand side of midfield and was so quick across the ground — he started so many Linfield attacks.

“He had a wonderful left foot and he really became a very formidable sweeper. He could read the game so well and a record of 1,000 appearances would never be beaten.

“I think David Jeffrey would acknowledge that managers live or die depending on the players they have and Noel Bailie has been with David every step along their journey which has brought so much success.

“As captain of the club, he has been an inspirational leader, as steady as a rock and it’s astonishing he has remained on top of his game at a club like Linfield for so long.

“His appearance record will never be repeated and it really is extraordinary when you think that players will suffer wear and tear over the years as injuries affect them. I’m thinking of players like Gary Smyth whose career was disrupted in that way.

“Noel is still going strong and in 200 years they will glance at his name in the history books and say ‘what a player Noel Bailie was’.”

Linfield know a win tomorrow will seal title glory so Jeffrey shouldn’t need to deliver a team-talk of Churchillian proportions.

But Crusaders, who beat Glentoran on their own patch 2-1 last weekend, shouldn’t be short on confidence.

“Linfield will be preparing for a game knowing they can win a title and this match is always a big occasion for our football club,” said Baxter.

“I don’t really look over my shoulder at other teams and I prefer to make sure we do things the right way.”

Young right winger David McMaster is fighting to overcome a bout of chicken pox to make the game.

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