Crusaders know we would be unpopular champions, admits Ward
Sean Ward believes most supporters want Coleraine to win the Danske Bank Premiership and he's warned his team-mates to be prepared for "absolute war" in their final three fixtures.
The Crues take on outgoing champions Linfield at Seaview tomorrow knowing there is no margin for error as their lead over Coleraine at the top is only on goal difference.
That goal difference of plus 21 could come in very handy at the end of the campaign but with Coleraine flying, the north Belfast men feel they must pick up nine points to finish the job.
After the Blues clash, Cliftonville visit the Shore Road venue and then the Hatchetmen return to the Ballymena Showgrounds, the same ground where their title dream went up in smoke a year ago.
Twelve months ago former Glentoran hero Ward was helping Linfield win their first championship since 2012.
Now the 34-year-old is using all his guile and experience to help the Crues get over the line first and snatch a third title in four years.
"I've followed talk on the title race and it appears that not many people want Crusaders to win it," argued Ward.
"Most people seem to want Coleraine to win the championship and see the trophy move out of Belfast. I'm not saying that teams will try harder against us than Coleraine but I do expect sides to really have a go at us.
"In fact, we have to be ready for absolute war in our final three games.
"Starting with Linfield on Saturday, our opponents would love to cut us down and in our dressing room we need to have that mentality of we are ready for it, ready for war. It's sink or swim time for us.
"We aren't giving up in this title race, no chance.
"We have knocked our pan in this season to put ourselves in a great position to win it and now we must do that."
There is pressure on both title chasers near the end of a long and gruelling campaign, but Ward loves the big games.
"I love the buzz of a title run and it's a real thrill to be involved in them," he added.
"Coleraine have been magnificent this season and I don't think many people, myself included, thought they could maintain their consistent form to this point.
"They lost key players like Eoin Bradley and Brad Lyons to injury but they kept winning and we must assume they will win their last three games so we must do that as well.
"We need to express ourselves the way we have all season and show belief.
"And when all is done and dusted, whoever wins the league deserves it. It's a long, tough season and the champions have certainly earned it.
"When we were two points clear people were saying we could afford to draw a game and now we have done that the picture is very clear - win the three games and we will win the league.
"What we need to do is crystal clear and it's up to the players to seize that opportunity."
Crusaders vs Linfield
Danske Bank Premiership:
Seaview, Saturday, 3.00pm