Belfast Telegraph

Leeman up for a fresh challenge at Crusaders

By Chris Holt

Paul Leeman has declared himself as hungry as ever to win major trophies and believes he can add to his medal collection at Crusaders.

The former Glentoran skipper moved from east to north Belfast on Tuesday, agreeing a two-year deal with last season’s league and cup runners up and says that making an exit from one of the Big Two doesn’t mean he is leaving behind the opportunity to gain even more silverware.

Though still disappointed at the manner in which he was forced to leave his beloved Glentoran, Leeman is relishing the fresh challenge he faces at Seaview.

“I don’t see why we can’t challenge,” he said. “The team went very close last season and it would be great if we went one better this season.

“Linfield have shown how important it is to have a strong squad and that is maybe where Crusaders fell short. But a few quality players like Timmy Adamson and Sean O’Neill have come in and not many have gone out so the squad has been strengthened. It’s a big challenge for the team and for me personally and it is one that I am looking forward to.”

Leeman wasn’t short on offers, admitting that five or six clubs approached him, merely hours after news broke that he was being released by the Glens.

“That made me feel good again at what was a difficult time,” he added. “I am grateful to all those players who took the time to call me and I think it hit home to me then that I did have a lot more to offer.

“I spoke to Stephen Baxter and I was impressed by his plans and I already know what they are capable of from playing against them. They are a good young team with a great team spirit and some great players and I am looking forward to being a part of that.

“I know that I am going to have to work extra hard to get into the team and I am ready for that because one to 11 I think they are as good as anyone.”

It will be strange seeing Leeman pull on the shirt of another team other than Glentoran — he came to epitomise everything that was good about the club.

Though he can’t wait for his new adventure, the former skipper believes his exit could have been handled better.

“I don’t think I was shown the respect I deserved after what I have done both on the pitch and off, as an ambassador for the club,” he said.

“It was disappointing that it had to end like that and I am still disappointed because, after all, I had been there so long. The club said it was to do with money but that wasn’t an issue — I offered to take a substantial cut but they turned that down. In the end I probably would have played for nothing, just to stay.

“Glentoran fans have been hugely supportive and I have been overwhelmed by the messages I have received from them. At the end of the day when I hang up the boots I will go back to being a Glentoran fan because it’s a family tradition.

“I have got so many great memories, made so many friends but I am looking forward to a new chapter and I will give 100% effort to Crusaders.”

Belfast Telegraph

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