Belfast Telegraph

Jordan Owens is now the ace in the Seaview pack

By Graham Luney

If, as expected, Crusaders go on to win their first league title in 18 years there is one man the players should raise up over their shoulders more than any other.

That man is Jordan Owens.

Any side with aspirations of becoming champions needs a goal machine is fine working order and the big striker has really risen to the challenge this season.

Cliftonville have had Liam Boyce and Joe Gormley. Linfield had Peter Thompson and Glenn Ferguson, Portadown had Vinny Arkins and Glentoran, Chris Morgan.

Stephen Baxter's side have the joint best defensive record in the league (with Linfield) but it's going forward where they have really blown the opposition away.

In 33 matches they have scored 85 goals. Glenavon, who have played a game more than the Crues, are next in the goalscoring table, 13 behind.

I felt at the start of the season that the door had opened a little further for Crusaders and the title was up for grabs if they could seize the opportunity.

But for the Hatchetmen to have any chance of realising their dream, Owens had to come to the party.

The 25-year-old is now a man on a mission, destined to record his own special history at the Shore Road club.

Jordan has netted 143 career goals in 335 appearances and the former Boys' Model pupil is now only 15 goals away from becoming the leading goalscorer in Crusaders' history.

Glenn Hunter, on 157 strikes, is within sight along with Curry Mulholland (149) and Danny Hale (143).

Davy Rainey (139) has just been passed and the frightening prospect for the rest of the Premiership is that Owens is yet to hit the peak of his powers. This season the man they affectionately call 'Chicken' has netted 30 goals in 43 appearances, including 26 league goals in 32 Premiership clashes.

Only Joe 'the goal' Gormley (29) is ahead of him in the league goalscoring table.

With Gormley now only 50 goals behind Cliftonville's top goalscorer, Kevin McGarry (170), both strikers are on course to set a new standard at their clubs.

Jordan also holds Crusaders' leading European goalscorer record with four strikes (v Rabotnicki 2009, Rosenborg home and away 2013 and Ekranas 2014).

The young Jordan Owens always looked like he had the finishing power and determination to make it in the game and several appearances in the Northern Ireland youth ranks helped instil confidence.

In fact, after breaking into the Crusaders' first team near the end of the 2007/08 season, his progress at Seaview earned him a senior cap against Wales in Dublin in 2011 alongside team-mates Stuart Dallas and Colin Coates. Inevitably, the top clubs have tried to lure Jordan and Crusaders' other big guns away from Seaview but the players have shown loyalty and now a league championship could follow Irish Cup and Setanta Cup glory.

A cross-channel move was talked about but nothing materialised.

I've followed Jordan's progress at Seaview since he was a raw teenage talent and at times he's been the most frustrating player in the league to watch.

He could miss an absolute sitter from six yards and then, just a minute later, smash a sensational volley into the roof of the net from long distance.

Away from the pitch he's a modest, humble lad and someone who just wants to play football and score goals.

Stephen Baxter, a prolific marksman in his playing days, has helped polish this diamond.

That diamond has really sparkled this season and that's why he deserves to be saluted.

Big Chicken's no turkey.

Belfast Telegraph

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