Belfast Telegraph

Billy Joe Burns' fourth league title is the sweetest of them all

Crusaders 2 - Glentoran 0

By David Mason

Billy Joe Burns admitted he had 'nothing to prove' after helping Crusaders to their first title win in 18 years.

The defender was surprisingly jettisoned by Linfield last summer and quickly snapped up by Crues boss Stephen Baxter and it's no coincidence that Burns has been a major player in the Shore Road team's success, which was climaxed with an impressive over Glentoran.

Even though Crusaders boasted a massive goal advantage, they still required one point before officially taking over the mantle of champions.

Declan Caddell settled any early nerves by smashing his team into the lead after only five minutes before Paul Heatley finished the job by planting the ball past Elliott Morris in injury time.

It sparked scenes of raw emotion from manager Baxter and his backroom staff, who were mobbed by players and supporters at the final whistle.

"This is my fourth title win, I had three with Linfield, but this one rates probably that bit sweeter," said Burns.

"Winning the league is special regardless of what club you are with. It's a great feeling. I don't think I had a point to prove to anyone after leaving Windsor. I knew in my own mind that the decision to join Crusaders was the right one.

"When I came here my aim was to win trophies. I've achieved that in my first season - we've won the big prize.

"We have a young squad, who now have the experience of winning the title. Once you win one, you want to win more because there is no better feeling. We knew last week the title was ours if we won at Solitude, that was the real decider for us.

"Even though we still required one more point to be officially crowned champions, I think we did it with a bit of style with the win over Glentoran. We now have another big game on Tuesday night against Linfield.

"We don't intend to push out the boat in terms of celebration because we have to be professional about it."

It's the third year in a row that Linfield have been ushered aside in the title race and Burns reckons the challenge from other clubs is now stronger than ever.

"Linfield will always be there or thereabouts, but there is now strong competition in this league," he added.

"Glentoran have shown signs that they are battling back to where they once were, while the two mid-Ulster clubs have been great this season.

"I don't think anyone can ever write off the two north Belfast clubs, Crusaders and Cliftonville. But that competition can only be good for the league in general."

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter hailed his troops, labeling them 'true champions'.

"It was nice to get the job officially completed," he said. "There has been a lot of hard work put in, not only this season, but over the past 10 years and everyone connected with the club deserves a pat on the back.

"The people behind the scenes know how far this club has come and the players have been magnificent. We put the building blocks together, but they are the ones that have to carry out their task on the pitch.

"They played like champions. Yes, we knew we had it won, but they had to be professional and go out and finish the job. They did it with a certain degree of style, which was great for the fans. The big party will begin after next week's final game."

Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson was far from happy with his team's contribution. He gave them an ear-bashing afterwards.

"Individuals switched off and it's not acceptable," he raged. "Yes, we have the Irish Cup final looming, but that is no excuse for turning in a performance like that."

  •  Glentoran are expecting to be given confirmation of an extra 2,500 for the Irish Cup final against Portadown today. They will be in temporary seating at The Oval.

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Whyte, Clarke, Caddell, O'Carroll. Heatley, Owens. Substitutions: Magowan (Clarke, 53 mins).

Glentoran: Morris, Kane, Birney, Garrett, McCullough, Addis, McAlorum, Nelson, McCaffrey, Scullion, Allen. Substitutions: Henderson (Garrett, 46 mins), Stewart (Scullion, 59 mins), Gordon (Nelson, 74 mins).

Man of the match: Paul Heatley. Match rating: 7/10. Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph