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Italian job means Coates can relax against Turks

Colin Coates is clinging to his dreams — the dream of Crusaders winning the Carling Premiership, the dream of a full-time career across the water and the dream of playing a competitive fixture for Northern Ireland.

Several of Nigel Worthington’s senior panel have rejected the chance to pack their bags for the end of season tour to the Americas, but players like Coates will seize every opportunity to clamber onto the international stage.

He will start tonight’s meeting with Turkey in Connecticut on the bench, but is certain to add to his single cap, won against Italy a year ago, as a substitute.

At that time Coates was linked with a move from the Crues. Such a switch to England or Scotland hasn’t materialised, but tonight's match and the one in Chile on Sunday represent a fantastic shop window to players who wouldn’t normally steal the spotlight.

“I’ll not be as nervous this time as I was on the Italy trip,” he said.

“Nigel told me I was going to start that game a few days in advance and I had plenty of time to think about it.

“I’ll be more relaxed now after gaining that experience in Italy and it is great to see other Irish League players involved.

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“I know I’m only in the squad because other players want a break, but the Italy game was the highlight of my career and I am delighted Nigel is showing faith in me again.

“You learn quickly how good the standard is when you are away with good players and it’s a great challenge for you to step up to the plate and improve. Even Lionel Messi will say he is not the finished article as a player so you are always striving to improve.”

Coates is the same age as Gareth McAuley was when he left Coleraine for Lincoln, but clubs have not yet raided Crusaders to snatch the 24-year-old.

Solid performances against Turkey or Chile may open a new door, but he isn’t having sleepless nights worried about the future direction of his career.

“I’ll just keep working hard on maintaining my form,” he added.

“It’s not something I get hung up on. You try to play the best you can and if someone watching me likes what they see then that could lead to something.”

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