We’ll win it for Eddie, says Cliftonville's Johnston
Barry Johnston is desperate to win the Irish Cup to help ease a painful memory in the mind of his manager, Eddie Patterson.
The local football world and beyond was shocked last season when Patterson received a death threat in the run up to the cup semi-final against Linfield.
However, Patterson dealt with that trauma with dignity and courage — in sharp contrast to those who were behind the cowardly act.
The Reds boss is now making final preparations for what he hopes will be the happiest day in his life and his midfield general would love to make his dream come true.
“It would be nice to win for trophy for Eddie after he received that death threat,” said Johnston.
“It was a very stressful and traumatic time for him, though the players were not told about it until after the game.
“We were disappointed to lose that game but we were distraught and disgusted when we heard that news.
“Eddie has taken a lot of stick but he is learning as well and sometimes he will have to bit his lip as he has been in the stand quite a bit.”
The most ridiculous question fired in the direction of Cliftonville or Crusaders players this week is ‘will you sleep on Friday night?’
There is far too much at stake. This is no ordinary game.
“The nerves are completely wrecked and I’m having trouble sleeping,” admitted Johnston.
“Without a shadow of a doubt this is the biggest game of my career. I played in the final with Coleraine when we lost to Glentoran 1-0 but it’s different playing for the club you supported all your life.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable feeling, competing in the final for a club I supported as a boy.
“It comes down to who is the hungriest on the day and who wants it more. It is 30 years since we won it and even longer than that for Crusaders so it is going to mean a lot.
“Walter Mills, the captain of the 1979 cup winning side, gave an inspirational speech which had a few of the boys in tears and there is a determination not to let the day pass us by. Those players are still held in high regard and the passage of time will never diminish what they achieved.”
The overwhelming majority of the players in both camps have no experience of an Irish Cup decider, but Johnston is confident the Reds will not wilt under the spotlight.
“We have played in many big games including in Copenhagen’s stadium in front of more than 10,000 fans and we have also performed in front of Sky Sports cameras,” he said.
“I don’t think anyone gets over-awed. The fact that it is a derby means it will be a blood and thunder affair and as it’s a cup final, that just makes it more tense and heated.
“It’s a game which has broken up the domination of the big two and that is to be welcomed.
“No disrespect to Linfield, but it is refreshing to see trophies handed out elsewhere.
“The Blues cannot get four doubles in a row and they now know that other sides are improving.”