Belfast Telegraph

It's about time Crusaders made a fast start: Paul Heatley

By Graham Luney

Paul Heatley is confident Crusaders' European heroics will help them come flying out of the traps like a greyhound.

A year ago the Crues impersonated a snail as a terrible start handed the initiative to their rivals.

Their first two Premiership games ended in defeat and the Hatchetmen's critics were in fine voice but a 24-game unbeaten run not only steadied the Seaview ship but had it sailing towards the promised land.

This time, Stephen Baxter's side are hungry to build on their heroics on the continent this summer.

The Shore Road history boys won away from home and progressed in European competition for the first time following back to back Europa League victories over Lithuanian side Ekranas.

Heatley scored both his side's goals in the superb 2-1 win in Lithuania.

The European fairytale ended against Swedish side IF Brommapojkarna but their summer adventures lifted spirits after another season without silverware.

Following the arrival of Billy Joe Burns and Diarmuid O'Carroll from Linfield and Cliftonville along with Stephen Cockcroft from H&W Welders, the Crues will be aiming to challenge for the big prizes again.

However, ahead of their opening fixture at Glenavon on Saturday, the Crues are simply focused on going through the gears quickly.

"It's been a Crusaders' trait that we haven't started the league season well and we want to change that," said Heatley.

"When you make a poor start you are playing catch-up and it's not ideal. The great thing about our pre-season and the European matches is that they leave us in a great position to start strongly.

"There is no better preparation for the cut and thrust of the Premiership. Our fitness levels are good and confidence is high."

The new arrivals at Seaview have encouraged the former Carrick Rangers man to dream of title glory once again.

"We have already seen the benefits of having guys of this calibre in the team," added the winger.

"The European trips allowed the players to bond and when there is a feel-good factor there it produces better performances on the pitch."

Meanwhile, Crues keeper Sean O'Neill said: "The new boys are excellent signings and with regard to Billy Joe Burns I would describe him as an absolute steal for us.

"I cannot understand how Warren Feeney allowed Billy Joe to leave the Blues. I know he will be a big player for us as well as Diarmuid and Stephen."

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