David Rainey hopes to finish his career at Crusaders but his immediate goal is to wipe away almost 10 years of pain felt by the club’s fans.
You will need to rewind the clock back to April 24, 1999 to relive the moment a Crusaders team conquered Linfield in a league battle.
Goals from Glenn Dunlop, Liam Dunne and Conor Frawley secured a 3-2 win over the Blues at Seaview in the final game of the season in which Glentoran were crowned champions.
Linfield’s goals were scored by Glenn Ferguson and Davy Larmour and for the record, the line-ups that day were:
Crusaders: O’Hare, Hill, McMullan, Gilgunn, Deegan, O’Toole (Dwyer), Dunne (Frawley), Russell, McCrae (Mooney), McIvor.
Linfield: Robinson, Shaw, McShane, Young, Murphy, Philson (Chisholm), Rogan, Gorman, Ferguson, Morgan (Larmour), Bailie.
Even current Blues boss David Jeffrey would admit that their cross-city rivals have suffered enough but Rainey knows that Linfield are hard to stop when they can smell Gibson Cup glory.
The former Glentoran hitman has conceded that the Crues are highly unlikely to win the title but he insists the Hatchetmen will enjoy making life difficult for the Big Two.
Stephen Baxter’s side have went toe to toe with the Blues on three occasions this season and were unfortunate to lose all of those games.
“The Crusaders fans can be assured we will give it our best shot to end this woeful run against Linfield in the league,” said Rainey.
“The supporters have waited a long time to celebrate a league win and of course we want to end their suffering and there is enough belief and quality in the team to do that.
“It helps if you can enjoy a little luck against the big boys but like in the league game at Windsor this season and in the CIS Cup final last season things did not go our way.
“But in my four years at Crusaders I have never seen the competition for places as fierce as we have at the moment and our form has mostly been excellent. I’ve scored for Glentoran against Linfield in a league game and that is always a big moment but every goal is special and means a lot to me.”
The Crues trail Linfield by 11 points and Rainey added: “The league is probably a step too far for us now as we would need to beat Linfield and then rely on them dropping much more points.
“If we were to win the gap would be eight points and we’ll never give up but I don’t think the title is a realistic target for us now.”
Rainey has netted 15 goals this season and the Blues defence will need to keep a close eye on him as well as former Windsor Park favourite Mark Dickson.
“Mark has got five goals in three games and was unlucky with a late penalty against Dungannon (Swifts),” added Rainey. “He has been in superb form as has big Jordan (Owens) and I’ve a fight to get into and stay in the team. But that is how it should be at this club and we are all giving 100 per cent in every game.
“I’m 32 and my contract is up in June but I’d love to earn a new deal and stay at Crusaders for the rest of my career.
“If we can stop teams taking away our best players this side will enjoy a lot of success and I hope to be part of it.”
The story so far...
Crusaders and Linfield have met three times already this season with the Blues sneaking the victory on each occasion.
August 26: LINFIELD 1 CRUSADERS 0 - The Crues issued their intent for the league season by dominating the champions on their own patch, but after Aaron Black missed a first half penalty, super-sub Mark Miskimmin bundled home a late winner for Linfield.
September 30: LINFIELD 3 CRUSADERS 3 (Linfield win 3-0 on penalties)- In a rip-roaring Co. Antrim Shield semi-final at the Oval, Crusaders went two down after goals from Paul Munster and a superb strike from Steven Douglas. Aaron Black and Jordan Owens scored late to take the game to extra time and it would eventually be decided on penalties after David Rainey equalised Muster’s second.
Linfield showed their experience in the spot kicks though, winning 3-0 when Gareth McKeown, Aaron Black and Mark Dickson all missed and Michael Carvill netted the decisive penalty to send Linfield through to the final.
November 29: CRUSADERS 2 LINFIELD 3 - The Blues bounced back from a tough spell by showing their grit in a hard-fought victory at Seaview. Glenn Ferguson and Michael Carvill gave them a 2-0 lead only for Jordan Owens to spark a fightback. However, Paul Munster restored the advantage and despite Alain Emerson’s 68th minute goal, David Jeffrey’s men held on for another win over the Hatchetmen.