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Crusaders can reap benefit of Michael Gault's Euro experience

By Graham Luney

Michael Gault says he's relishing the new chapter in his career at Crusaders, starting with the glamour Champions League second qualifying round battle with Danish giants FC Copenhagen tonight at Seaview (7pm).

"It's one of the biggest challenges I have faced," admitted Gault, whose trophy-winning experience with Linfield should keep the north-Belfast side sailing in calm waters.

The former Blues skipper won trophies galore at Windsor Park but his time at Portadown was more painful with an Irish Cup final loss to Glentoran.

A move to champions Crusaders could see the 33-year-old rediscover his old swagger and silence the doubters who say he's finished.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter is banking on Gault's title experience to keep his Seaview trophy-winning machine in perfect condition and the Lisburn man also brings an impressive European pedigree to the Hatchetmen.

"I've scored a few goals in Europe and been part of successful teams that have progressed," said Gault. "Crusaders have performed brilliantly in the last few seasons and hopefully I can play a part this time.

"I've been to countries like Finland and Norway but haven't played in Denmark. Copenhagen, however, are a top side and it is a formidable challenge.

"You always want to get through a round and the boys will give it everything but you are up against strong sides. We will see just how fit and strong they are.

"I know a lot of the boys here from playing with and against them, guys like Philip Lowry, Michael Carvill and Billy Joe Burns.

"The Crues have been the best team in the league for two seasons so it's an exciting new chapter for me. I could have stayed at Portadown or went elsewhere but I am very ambitious and I want to win more trophies.

"I hope I can have a chance to do that with Crusaders. I've been fortunate to win a few titles in a row and the Crues are in a strong position to keep winning.

"It's one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career. Portadown were very good to me and showed an interest when Linfield let me go, but we did let the supporters down and a huge regret is that we couldn't win a trophy like the Irish Cup."

Gault's disciplinary record is poor and Baxter has warned the tough tackling ace to keep his cool in the heat of battle. More than 20 bookings a season is not going to impress the faithful.

"It was one of the first things Stephen said to me but I know how important it is to make a real effort to stay on the field and not do stupid things," maintained Gault.

"It's not something that really worries me. I'm not a dirty player, at times I have just been too eager to go into tackles.

"I felt I was playing better towards the end of the season and I don't want to be in a position where I feel like I am walking a disciplinary tightrope."

The former Northern Ireland player can also slot into a centre-back role but he doesn't want to be moved around the pitch too much.

"The manager will use me whenever and wherever he wants but it's better to have an established position and then perhaps you might have a better chance of consistent performances," he added. "In the past I have switched quite a bit but I know it will be difficult to keep a place in this team."

The Crues enter the tie as underdogs but will kick-off with a fair degree of self-belief having done well in Europe last season.

Last week, Linfield and Glenavon exited the Europa League with Cliftonville making it through. The Crues will hope to follow the lead of the Reds.

It will be an emotional night for the Crusaders management, players and fans as they will pay tribute to club legend Arthur 'Mousey' Brady, who passed away at the weekend.

Arthur was one of the first players inducted into the Crusaders Hall of Fame and the players' lounge is named in his honour.

Arthur's funeral is at St Joseph's Church, Hannahstown today at 1pm.

Belfast Telegraph


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