Owens deserved a big-time shot
Colin Coates is surprised Crusaders' goal machine Jordan Owens hasn't secured a cross-channel move. Owens is on the brink of becoming a Crues history-maker after moving level with Glenn Hunter in the club's goalscoring charts on 157 strikes.
The 26-year-old could now smash the record against Cliftonville at Seaview this afternoon and the handsome reward for a home triumph would be a bumper 11 points lead in the title race.
The striker, who has been with the Crues since his early teenage years, made one Northern Ireland appearance against Wales in the 2011 Carling Nations Cup but unlike his former team-mate Stuart Dallas, who also made his senior international bow in that game, Owens wasn't given a chance to establish a career in the professional game.
Coates was the third Crusaders player to play against the Welsh in Dublin and four years later the Seaview skipper is surprised the man they call 'Big Chicken' is still gobbling up rivals on the Shore Road.
"Jordan deserves all the praise and credit he gets," said Coates.
"I know Jordan made that Northern Ireland appearance with myself and Stuart but the move to England or Scotland never happened, despite his incredible goalscoring form.
"When I look at some of the players who have been given a chance I feel Jordan's name is in that category.
"I thought a club would have taken a chance on him as he has all the attributes to perform at a higher level.
"There's so much more to his game than scoring goals. Joe Gormley, who moved from Cliftonville to Peterborough United, scored goals for fun but Jordan has great physical presence and in terms of physicality and holding the ball up I think he has many strengths.
"He's been a massive success with us and every Crusaders player will tell you we are delighted he is in our team. I wouldn't want to play against him. Jordan works his socks off and even when he doesn't get many chances in a game he occupies the centre halves and keeps the back four busy for 90 minutes. He's as honest as the day is long, a gentle giant off the pitch and a tough competitor on it."
It will be a very merry Christmas on the Shore Road should the Crues triumph in this sell-out fixture but Coates is remaining cool.
"If the Reds win this one they will be only five points behind us and that lead can be wiped out very quickly," he said.
"They will be looking to bounce back after their defeat at Glentoran but we will be looking to impose ourselves at Seaview.
"Of course we would happily take an 11 points advantage at this stage but it will be very tough.
"The one good thing for us is that, unlike in the cup competitions so far, we have shown we have that big game mentality in the important league matches and we have turned up and performed.
"There just hasn't been that big game feeling in the cups for some reason but in the league we have managed to show real focus and determination and that's why we are in a good position.
"We have a difficult run of fixtures with games coming up against Linfield, Glentoran, Portadown, Coleraine, Glenavon and Cliftonville again.
"When you are top of the league the challenge is to stay there but you face big games every week.
"The Boxing Day games are usually tight but they are always massive and you still get the butterflies in your stomach waiting for the action to start.
"There's a big incentive for both teams to get the win but you have to go out and earn it. You can't look too far ahead in this league but we're in good shape and feeling confident."