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Hands on the prize: Tommy Breslin lifts the Gibson Cup after Cliftonville defended the trophy for the first time in the club’s history

Hands on the prize: Tommy Breslin lifts the Gibson Cup after Cliftonville defended the trophy for the first time in the club’s history

All-Ireland kings: Crusaders celebrate their Setanta Cup success in 2012 after beating Derry City in the final

All-Ireland kings: Crusaders celebrate their Setanta Cup success in 2012 after beating Derry City in the final

©William Cherry/Presseye

Hands on the prize: Tommy Breslin lifts the Gibson Cup after Cliftonville defended the trophy for the first time in the club’s history

Here's what we have had since 2008 - two league championships, one Irish Cup, one Setanta Sports Cup, three League Cups and three County Antrim Shields. All silverware that has arrived in north-Belfast.

Football in this little corner of the city has never been healthier.

Fans of both clubs are very fortunate to be living in this golden period in which the neighbours have never been as consistently strong since Irish League football kicked off in 1890.

Yes, there have been other titles and cup triumphs but the clubs have never been in better shape - on or off the pitch.

This success doesn't happen overnight. It takes long-term planning from people with vision, people who genuinely care about their local team.

Money has been too tight to mention in this league. Progress has been painfully slow but both the Crues and Reds have facilities they can be proud of.

Create a more welcoming, family environment and the fans will show their appreciation by coming back and they are returning in larger numbers.

In the case of Crusaders, a lot of praise and recognition must go to their manager Stephen Baxter. When the former Crues striker took charge in 2005 the Shore Road club was on its knees.

In fact, it tasted relegation for the first time. Baxter could have left the sinking ship but in a frank discussion with his players he stated: "We either walk away or we stay together and rebuild the club."

The rest is glorious history, including a Setanta Cup triumph against massive odds in 2012 and the 2009 Irish Cup final win over Cliftonville. This summer the club progressed in European competition for the first time.

Baxter has made Crusaders a formidable force on their new artificial surface while the Reds have been rampant on their own synthetic pitch which was installed for the 2010-2011 season. New stands have been built and although Crusaders would still love to find a new home, both stadiums are like the football - much prettier on the eye than 10 years ago.

Cliftonville have just won back to back league titles for the first time in the club's history - the Solitude men have only claimed four outright league triumphs.

The Reds proved that you don't need all the money in the world to taste success and both clubs understand the importance of youth development. And while Baxter's shrewd transfer business and drive has injected fresh life into Crusaders, Tommy Breslin has built on the work of Liam Beckett and Eddie Patterson.

A combination of hard work and inspired leadership at boardroom level has left both clubs hoping for a prosperous future but it's not all rosy in the garden.

The clubs have been caught in the middle of a sectarian storm whipped up by others surrounding the derby fixture at Seaview.

This game is one of the most attractive fixtures in the Irish League calendar and it should never be threatened by anyone.

Crusaders and Cliftonville are more than just football clubs.

They are expressions and reflections of community pride and the emotional bond with supporters is strong.

The Crues have close ties with Newington FC, whose first team train and play home games at Seaview.

Seaview Enterprises Ltd, the social enterprise company set up by Crusaders and Newington, run a range of social programmes aimed at disadvantaged young people and both clubs are working together to seek land for a shared stadium in north-Belfast.

But unfortunately, when clubs are successful there is always the chance that a few 'undesirables' will leap onto the bandwagon and I was reminded of this reality after reports of some Portadown fans being attacked after arriving at Solitude on Saturday.

The Irish League doesn't need Rambo impersonators.

Go back to painting your gangster murals and leave it to the clubs to keep this society moving forward.

Belfast Telegraph