Glenavon star Rainey gunning for old Crusaders pals
David Rainey will be in very familiar surroundings tomorrow, but his winning mentality has never changed.
The striker will wear Glenavon colours at Seaview – a venue where he earned legendary status in the famous red and black of Crusaders.
And the former Glentoran hero will leave the away dressing room with a spring in his step knowing his new club are looking down on all their rivals at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership.
Friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes as the 37-year-old aims to remind his former employers what they are missing.
Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter made the call at the end of last season to release the lethal finisher, even though Rainey thought he could fight on for the Hatchetmen.
Other players might have been hurt by that decision and decided to hang up their boots, but Rainey always believed there was plenty of life in this old dog.
And the 'old dog' is showing his teeth at Mourneview Park, with three goals to his name after featuring in all eight league outings.
Rainey – and Gareth McKeown who was also allowed to leave Crusaders for Glenavon – have golden memories of their time on the Shore Road.
Irish Cup and Setanta Sports Cup glory were two cherished moments.
But both men are targeting fresh success at Mourneview and the early indications are that their dreams could be realised.
It will be a surreal feeling when they tackle former team-mates and comrades tomorrow, but there will be no old pals act.
"When I was let go at Crusaders I said to myself that I didn't want to hang up the boots," said Rainey.
"I wanted to find a club that suited me and this was definitely the best option out of them all.
"I have no regrets about coming here. I think it's well known that I didn't want to leave Seaview, but it had to happen and I'm just thankful that Gary Hamilton found a role for me here at Glenavon.
"I wouldn't say I was laden with options, but I had a few and it was nice to know managers were interested.
"At my age, I was just thankful that a club this professional and ambitious believed I could do a job for them.
"Gary had shown an interest in me before, but I was not willing to leave Seaview."
How will it feel to run out at the Shore Road ground without the famous red and black jersey? "It's going to be very strange," he added.
"I will be going down there and going into the away dressing room to start with, which will be different.
"I'll be coming out in the blue instead of the red and black so everything will be different, but I'll go there and try to do a job for Glenavon.
"As much as I love the club, (Crusaders) fans and players, over the 90 minutes you've got to do the job for Glenavon."
Rainey is doing just that, enjoying his attacking role alongside sharp-shooters such as Guy Bates and Mark Farren.
"Guy has been great for us, a revelation," he says.
"His scoring record is phenomenal, but he can also provide great assists as well."
Meanwhile, McKeown and another new signing – William Murphy – have focused on foiling the league's best frontmen.
"We have a great squad here – a few veterans, but they have valuable experience and can help the younger boys like James Singleton and Rhys Marshall, who was absolutely outstanding against Cliftonville," added Rainey.
"They are quality kids and it can only get better for Glenavon with these youngsters coming through.
"Let me tell you, there's no bad time to be top of the league.
"There's a good bunch of lads here and we worked really hard against Cliftonville to get that little bit of luck you need.
"Joe Gormley could have had a few goals, but Andy Coleman pulled off a few wonder saves and he put one wide of the post that you would expect him to roll in.
"You get days like that when things don't go for you. It will happen for us and other teams including Linfield; they will miss chances.
"It was an even affair against Cliftonville with both sides missing chances.
"But don't be writing off the Reds – Cliftonville are too strong a team to start sliding down the table after losing to us."
Glenavon are seven points ahead of sixth placed Crusaders in the league table and only Portadown have scored more goals than Gary Hamilton's men.
But the mid-Ulster men have found life tough at the north-Belfast venue, with their last win there coming in November, 2008.
Hamilton, no lover of the Crues' artificial surface, will sit this one out, but it's a pitch Rainey has already demonstrated his class on.
He added: "I'm not reading too much into our league position.
"If we were sitting sixth in the league and still capable of producing that performance against Cliftonville I would expect our confidence to be high.
"It's always good to beat one of the teams that will be challenging for the title and everyone's on a high, but Seaview, as I know very well, is a very hard place to get a result."