Belfast Telegraph

More of our sides will go pro: Baxter


Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates after the final whistle
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates after the final whistle

By Billy Weir

Stephen Baxter thinks that more local teams will go down the professional route in an effort to stay at the top of the game.

The Crusaders boss, who collected a third Gibson Cup at the weekend, is set to become a full-time manager next year with the north Belfast side determined not to rest on their laurels.

"We have our full-time plans in place for what we want to do next year," he explained.

"Michael O'Neill made mention of that in the last year or two on the improvements that have been made. With the work these part-time players have been putting in, it has become like a professional game and that's why we need to examine that.

"We've seen the Dundalk model, the Derry City model, we know the type of thing we're working towards and I think you'll see that improvement now in Irish League football.

"I think you're going to see a lot of teams go in that direction, you'll see teams maybe like Coleraine and Ballymena putting plastic pitches in to improve the quality."

However, despite the rise of the Bannsiders this season, Baxter still sees the main threat to his side's dominance coming from the south of the city.

"We have to work really hard at what we do because we are still trying to compete with Linfield, make no mistake about it," he added.

"Linfield are the big noise in Northern Ireland with regards to the stadium, finances, support base and for teams like ourselves and Cliftonville, who are taking titles off them, it speaks volumes for what's going on."

Belfast Telegraph

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