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Stephen Baxter: Missing out on Europe has meant a selective summer of transfer dealings for Crusaders

 

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Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter admits Crusaders' failure to qualify for Europe means he's had to be selective in his transfer dealings over the summer.

Having boosted their bank balance considerably by punching their ticket to continental action every season for the past decade, the Shore Road outfit missed out by finishing in third place when the Danske Bank Premiership was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Baxter did snap up midfielder Ben Kennedy from Stevenage and former Rangers defender Aidan Wilson, but some of the old guard departed Seaview in the form of Sean Ward, Howard Beverland and Kyle Owens.

"We have been more selective as opposed to over-active in the transfer market," says Baxter.

"We were working off a big squad last season, so we have reduced one or two numbers as we felt we needed to. It didn't concern me.

"However, we picked up a couple of top players. Ben Kennedy is back after spending five years in England. He played over 200 games over there. He is a superb player.

"And, of course, Aidan Wilson has come to live here after spending 14 years at Rangers. He is still only 21 and was at Ibrox since he was seven.

"He looks a top player. So we have been selective in our signings. We are still active, perhaps looking for one more if we could find what we are looking for."

With the new Premiership campaign on the starting blocks, Baxter believes the onus is on every club to have the proper safety procedures in place to accommodate as many fans as possible come October 17.

"We've lived with coronavirus for six months," he adds.

"We are now all that little bit more aware of the health and safety of it.

"We have had a fair length of time to adapt, but we need to operate in a safe environment so we've got to go through health and safety checks at every venue.

"Everyone needs to keep themselves safe but, by the same token, we must get on with it. There is a great need to use common sense and take heed of the guidance from the experts.

"There are going to be restrictions in place possibly for the next six months and it remains to be seen what sort of crowds respective clubs can accommodate.

"Once we do get into some sort of action, everyone must fall into line in terms of how we go about getting fans into and out of grounds. The message is 'we are all in this together'."

Crusaders begin their League campaign with a difficult away day at Warrenpoint Town.

Baxter says: "Warrenpoint have strengthened well and will be a much stronger outfit and new boys Portadown will bring a fresh, young squad with an enthusiastic manager. It all bodes well for our League, providing all goes well off the pitch.

"I've never had an easy game at Warrenpoint in my life. It's just a pity we can't get the fans in to see these games because I've no doubt we could have been playing in front of a full house in some of the early matches.

"I think getting football started is the most important thing. If there is a reduction in crowds, I hope the government gets behind the League financially to make it work until we get the crowds back in.

"We need to get some sort of normality back into our culture and our game."


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