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Beverland expects an emotional reunion with Bannsiders

By Graham Luney

Published 20/08/2016

Old boy: Howard Beverland (right) will make his first return to Coleraine as a Crusaders player today
Old boy: Howard Beverland (right) will make his first return to Coleraine as a Crusaders player today

Howard Beverland has admitted that it will feel very strange running out to face his old club Coleraine today.

The former Bannsiders skipper is now chasing a league title with Crusaders after bringing a 10-year journey at the Showgrounds to an emotional end.

Now playing alongside Colin Coates in the heart of the Crues defence, the 26-year-old is loving life on the Shore Road and he wants to help the Hatchetmen, who have bagged back-to-back titles, sail to more historic achievements.

But if victory comes at the Showgrounds it will taste a little bittersweet for Beverland as special memories from his Coleraine days will always be cherished.

"It's going to be a very strange feeling playing against Coleraine," he admitted.

"I played for the club for a long time but was also captain of the team which is a huge honour.

"I've a lot of good friends there and after 10 years at the club it does have a hold on you.

"But you aren't just talking about time spent on the pitch winning or losing.

"A captain leads by example and a lot of time was spent supporting the club's activities in the community.

"I brought with me many special memories when I left. It was always going to be a tough call but Crusaders offered the opportunity to win league titles and major trophies."

While Coleraine boss Oran Kearney, the players and fans were desperate for Beverland to stay put, they can understand his motives for seeking a new challenge.

"Although fans were disappointed to see me leave they were supportive and appreciate of my service," he said.

"I'm very grateful for that and you do worry about the feedback and reaction but it has been positive.

"People can understand why I decided to move, I wanted to push on in my career and win medals. When I think about it I was very proud of the 10 years at Coleraine and it is a good innings for a player to be at a club.

"It's an exciting time to be at Crusaders with the club going for a third consecutive title and it would be nice to be part of an historic achievement like that."

The Crues were held to a scoreless draw by title rivals Linfield last weekend and were disappointed not to secure the win following Stephen Lowry's dismissal early in the second half.

"You have to give credit to Linfield because they fought hard after the sending off but we were the more disappointed team not to go on and win it," admitted Beverland.

"It's a result that could bring more stability to Linfield's season and Roy Carroll is an excellent signing for them, controlling the defence very well and commanding in the air, dealing with crosses.

"But Crusaders are the champions and it's up to the players to deal with that expectation and show that winning mentality.

"There is pressure if it is in your mind that you want to win every match but it's an enjoyable challenge."

The Bannsiders were thumped 4-0 at Dungannon Swifts last weekend and Beverland admits his former employers will be anxious to flex their muscles against the Crues.

"Like any side coming off the back of a heavy defeat they will be determined to show they can play a lot better," he added.

"You expect a clear reaction and it's something we will be aware of and must deal with.

"Our attitude has got to be right in matches or we won't achieve our objectives. Over the years the Crues have needed to really grind out results at the Showgrounds and it could be like that again."

Coleraine boss Kearney blasted his players after the heavy loss to the Swifts and he will expect a strong reaction today.

"The performance against Linfield was among the best four or five since I've been here," said Kearney.

"However, the display at Dungannon was one of the bottom five. It's very simple - the performance against Crusaders needs to be in that top five and if not it will be a cricket score."

Many clubs have title-winning aspirations but Crues boss Stephen Baxter has assembled a formidable squad and another Seaview ace, Andrew Mitchell, says strength in depth will be key over a demanding season.

"The players Stephen has brought to the club have considerable experience and they know how to win. Michael (Gault) and Howard (Beverland) were captains at previous clubs, real leaders," said Mitchell.

"There's fantastic competition for places and that brings out the best in all of us.

"Young guys like Skimmer (Matthew Snoddy) and Gavin Whyte have league winner's medals and in many ways their careers are just starting.

"The one thing you know for sure is that nothing is handed to you in football.

"Linfield and Glenavon have both strengthened their squads as we expected and for us it's about keeping the work-rate high.

"Glenavon are Irish Cup winners and have brought in good players but so have we and we have raised the bar in Irish League football. We want to keep raising the bar and it's about having the right mindset and desire to keep winning."

Crusaders lost their Champions League clash to Copenhagen but Mitchell has cherished memories from that battle.

"If you win the league you sample Champions League football and that's a wonderful reward from both a club and player perspective," added the 24-year-old.

"Our away game in Copenhagen felt like it was our Champions League final!"

Belfast Telegraph

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