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Crusaders captain Coates is fighting fit again and set for Robinson reunion

By Graham Luney

Crusaders are set for good news on the defensive front with the club poised to bring Josh Robinson back to Seaview while Colin Coates has been given the green light to return to training.

Robinson left the Crues for York City in June last year and agreed a two-year deal at Bootham Crescent, but, after making five appearances for the Minstermen, the former Rangers player then progressed to National League North side Boston United in a loan deal.

The former Northern Ireland Under-21 ace was hungry to test himself in the professional game but now he's set to return and pull on a Crusaders jersey again.

Robinson helped the Crues clinch back-to-back league titles and the return of the 23-year-old will be a huge boost to the Shore Road side, who were badly damaged by Coates' absence through injury for much of last season.

The Crues skipper suffered a horrendous ankle injury and needed to go under the knife, but now surgeons have indicated he's firmly on the road to recovery.

Thrilled boss Stephen Baxter said: "The surgeon has told him that everything is clear and he will be able to step up training for us. We will now have to wait and see how quickly he can regain his fitness and get the engine going again. But it's a major boost to us that he has been given the all clear to resume training."

Coates will resume his partnership with Robinson in the heart of the Crues defence, with another new arrival, Sean Ward, giving Baxter more options.

Coates said: "The surgeon had a look and there's nothing more to worry about with the ankle. It's now eight and a half weeks since the operation and I've started doing my own training. The only concern is I would like more games before the European matches as I would need to build up my fitness level.

"It was a tough watch for me, and I couldn't help the boys, but Linfield were on a great run and you could see them winning it. We will take it on the chin and use everything as extra motivation to go again."

Robinson's return to north Belfast means that Baxter is now unlikely to pursue former Glentoran defender Jay Magee, who could now join either Ards or Ballymena United.

The Crues boss also welcomed goalkeeper Brian Jensen to the club.

"We are very pleased to bring Brian in. Sean's (O'Neill) shoulder injury has been a concern for us and will keep him out for three to six months," he added. "We had to make sure we brought a goalkeeper in of real quality and Brian fits the bill. He has vast experience and will be a colossus for us in goal. He's an exciting addition to the squad and it's great for the Premiership too to have a player of his calibre on board.

"European football was also a big appeal for him."

Portadown have signed former Ballymena United striker Darren Henderson on a one-year deal while Ryan Catney has agreed a two-year contract with Cliftonville and the club captain has been handed a testimonial in the 2018-2019 campaign.

And St Johnstone have signed 18-year-old midfielder Kyle McClean following his release from Nottingham Forest.

The Belfast man has been included in Northern Ireland's squad for their opening Euro Under-21 qualifier in Estonia on Thursday.

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