There will be no old pal’s act from former Crues defender in Cliftonville glory bid
Crusaders legend Colin Coates has backed his Cliftonville side to edge past the Crues in tonight’s Irish Cup semi-final and remain on course for an historic treble.
Paddy McLaughlin’s high flyers have already won the BetMcLean League Cup and can reach the Irish Cup decider with a victory over their north Belfast rivals at Windsor Park tonight.
The Reds are also in the thick of a thrilling title race, sitting just four points behind league leaders Linfield with a game in hand – with the rivals due to meet at Solitude on April 9.
Cliftonville are chasing a first Irish Cup success in 43 years and they have recruited a former Seaview favourite to help them bring the prize back to Solitude for the first time since 1979.
Former Crues captain Coates, who won three league titles and two Irish Cups as well as a Setanta Cup with the Shore Road side, is confident the slick Reds can finish the campaign with a bang.
“Everyone has a hunger to do well including the manager who did well at Institute and wants to enjoy more success at Cliftonville,” says the 36-year-old
“Paddy was shrewd in the transfer market. He signed players who all had a point to prove for one reason or another, whether it was Jamie McDonagh, Jonny Addis, myself and Criky Gallagher.
“For me, as an ex Crusaders player, I don’t carry of that baggage while a player like Joe Gormley will have his eyes on that medal. It’s a new group of players, new manager and the team just need to play well against a tough opponent.
“They are a good, experienced side and if you can get to a final then anything can happen.
“As for the title, it’s going to be tough to finish above Linfield, It’s their title to lose going into the split.
“You would expect Glentoran to finish strongly as well. We have to be in a position to take advantage of other teams’ slip ups and the mantra of taking one game at a time is working for us.
“The players have delivered and we will win as many games as we can and see where we end up.”
Coates has been impressed with the spirit and togetherness at Solitude.
“Players are disappointed when they don’t play but there is no-one there who is rocking the boat and it’s great to see,” he added.
“It’s a credit to Paddy in how he manages his players and talks to them. It’s a great set-up and we just need to keep it going for a few weeks more.”