David Rainey is eagerly awaiting the biggest match of his career — but fears he may miss it.
Rainey and his team-mates were given the hairdryer treatment by manager Stephen Baxter after the 5-0 thrashing dished out by Linfield on Saturday.
Baxter said he now had an “open mind” regarding his team selection for the glamour game against Cliftonville and Rainey has more reason than others to fear the worst.
Although he has been the club’s top goalscorer for the last few seasons, Rainey has spent part of this campaign warming the bench and he can also recall the Irish Cup decider in 2000 when he looked on from the sidelines as his Glentoran side edged past Portadown 1-0.
“I’ve been involved in two cup finals but I was cup-tied for the first one with Glentoran. That was against Glenavon when John Kennedy scored the winner and then I didn’t get on against Portadown,” said Rainey.
“The only way you can enjoy it is to win it. It’s nice for a club like Crusaders to get to the final but now it’s all about bringing the trophy back to Seaview.
“I know the boys didn’t turn up against Linfield but perhaps one eye was on the final. That may be understandable but the last thing we wanted to do was let the fans down.
“I’m happy to help the boys out by showing my experience but, of course, I will need to be selected first.
“We lost two finals last season (County Antrim Shield and Co-operative Insurance Cup) so we know how that feels. Now we have to go one step further and lift the trophy. I believe this team is good enough to lift the prize and write themselves into the history books.
The Crues were taught a footballing lesson by Linfield last weekend but the former Glentoran striker feels the north Belfast side are not far off reaching the bar set by the Big Two.
“We let ourselves down against Linfield and people will say we aren’t a match for them but that’s lies,” said Rainey.
“Glentoran beat us only once this season and in the other games against the Blues we gave them a fright.
“Hopefully we can do the same to Cliftonville.”