Colin Coates is poised to extend his Crusaders contract and set about catapulting the club into the JJB Sports Irish Cup final.
The Crues skipper is now ready for battle again after breaking his collarbone against Glentoran at the Oval nearly eight weeks ago.
Now the centre-back is hoping to run out at the Newry Showgrounds on Saturday for a league encounter and then lead his side out for the glamour cup semi-final date with Institute at the Ballymena Showgrounds on April 4.
“I haven’t signed the new deal yet which will keep me at Crusaders for the next two seasons but there has been a verbal agreement and I will not go back on my word,” said the 23-year-old. “I heard that Linfield were interested in me but I never felt in my heart that I was going anywhere. There is no reason to leave the Crues and I have always felt that a league title at Seaview is worth perhaps four won at Windsor Park.
“Martin Donnelly’s decision to sign a new two-year deal helped me make up my mind to stay put and I share the ambition of the manager (Stephen Baxter) and everyone at the club. Once the contract is put in front of me I will sign it. I don’t believe we are that far away from challenging for a league title. With another one or two players we would give Linfield and Glentoran a much stronger challenge.”
The immediate target occupying Coates’ mind is returning to the first team, particularly with the cup semi-final showdown looming.
“I have come through one reserve game and the doctors are happy with my progress,” he added. “I would not take any risks by playing when not fully fit. I have survived a few knocks and am ready to return to the squad. There are very big games coming up and I want to play in them. The Irish Cup run we have been on has been fantastic and I never thought that the boys at the back would struggle without me.”