Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders still hoping to get Joe Gormley deal over the line

By Graham Luney

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter is hoping to bring Joe Gormley to Seaview but it's not a done deal yet.

The Crues, Linfield and Cliftonville are in the hunt for Gormley's signature but rumours are gathering pace that the former Reds hero could be joining the back-to-back Danske Bank Premiership champions.

Crusaders would be prepared to spend big to net Gormley but the 27-year-old has several options on the table and an emotional return to Cliftonville cannot be ruled out.

Earlier this season Gormley quit professional football, leaving Peterborough United in favour of a return home.

A serious knee injury disrupted his progress and following a loan spell at Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone the Ardoyne man finally let go of his full-time dream.

Gormley can't play for another club this season but he can sign a pre-contract agreement and Crusaders, it appears, are still in the race for his signature.

Crues boss Baxter, however, says the rumours are simply rumours and there is no agreement with the Northern Ireland striker. "I understand there are a lot of rumours but there is nothing we can confirm," explained Baxter.

"If a transfer was to happen then we could confirm something but we are not at that point.

"There is interest from us in the sense that there have been negotiations but Joe has several options and there is nothing fresh that we can report.

"I think Joe has been looking to break free from his contract at Peterborough and he was focused on getting that cleared up.

"We are keeping tabs on Joe's situation and that's as much as we can say."

Even world champion boxer and Crues fan Carl Frampton couldn't resist teasing the Reds fans last month when he tweeted: "If @JoeGormley9 joins @CrusadersFC we'll win the Champions League."

Responding to Frampton's post, Crusaders winger Gavin Whyte wrote: "Do it Joe."

Baxter spent five days on the phone last week attempting to finalise the transfer of defender Alan Keane so he understands the time that needs to be invested to get a deal across the line.

Reds fans are desperate to see the 'Return of the King' but speaking before his side's Irish Cup defeat to Ballymena United, boss Gerard Lyttle said there was no progress, as yet, on that front.

Lyttle told the Belfast Telegraph last month: "I would love to bring him back to Cliftonville and we are very keen to achieve that.

"Hopefully we can get something sorted in the near future."

If Gormley rejects the chance to rejoin Cliftonville he won't be able to make more history as he sits fourth in the club's all-time goalcharts - 48 behind leader Kevin McGarry.

The Solitude faithful will also be gutted - particularly if he signs for their neighbours down the road.

The striker, who formed a deadly partnership with Liam Boyce, made 183 appearances for Cliftonville, scoring 122 goals and his 41-strike tally is a club record for one season.

• Ballymena United have made a move to sign Kevin Braniff. The striker requested to be placed on the transfer list at Glenavon and Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey wants to bring him to the Showgrounds.

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