Mark Dickson has tipped Martin Donnelly to set the Carling Premiership on fire this season.
Donnelly’s stunning first season in Irish League football earned him the Young Player of the Year Award, but Dickson feels the Northern Ireland international is yet to fully blossom.
Much of Crusaders’ set-piece magic and attacking threat is provided by the 20-year-old and Dickson is expecting the winger to keep torturing defences.
“I think this is going to be a big season for Marty Donnelly,” said Dickson. “He knows what the Irish League is all about, but we certainly haven’t seen the best of him yet.
“He showed his quality last season and has looked really sharp in pre-season. I’m sure the Northern Ireland call-up has really boosted his confidence and that can only help us.
“Hopefully he can produce the goods on the pitch for us again this year.”
Expectation levels have soared at Seaview after the Irish Cup win in May when Dickson smashed in a superb strike to break Cliftonville hearts.
The former Larne marksman knows what it takes to win titles after a spell as a hungry goal-getter in a Linfield jersey, but putting red and black ribbons on the Gibson Cup is a very different challenge.
“Both Linfield and Glentoran have been there and done it so they know what it takes to win league titles,” he added.
“It’s up to other clubs to change things, but with Portadown back in the mix it is going to be even tougher.
“Lisburn Distillery, with a new manager and the players they have signed, will also be difficult to beat.
“Considering the league campaign is over 38 matches you need to be a lot more consistent than what we were last year.
“We pushed the Big Two when we played against them last season, but we had too many draws.
“When you consider that other clubs were interested in players who came to Crusaders that says a lot about the direction the club is going in. The manager is trying to build a squad which is capable of winning the league and the players are with him on that.
“The big thing will be keeping the players fit and free from suspension.”