CRUSADERS skipper Colin Coates admits he still dreams about lifting the Gibson Cup.
The 26-year-old defender has won every domestic honour available in the local game.
The only silverware that has proved elusive is the Irish League title.
Crusaders’ last championship success came in 1997, back when Coates was a mere 11-year-old.
Tonight the Seaview hero will step out against English Championship side Huddersfield Town as part of his testimonial celebrations.
It is rich reward for a true stalwart of the Shore Road club, and the culmination of 12 years of hard graft in the red and black striped jersey.
“I have been at the club since I was 15, and I will be 27 this month. It has been a long time and I have loved every minute of it,” Coates said.
“I have enjoyed the 12 years and there have been a lot of highs and lows – but thankfully there have been more highs.
“We have managed a bit of success in recent years so it has been good.
“When I arrived at the club I never thought I would play in the Irish League, let alone play over 300 games for a club like Crusaders.
“It is special here. It is the family nature of the club and everyone is trying to pull together to achieve something.
“It has been a long process, but it is nice to feel a part of the success story of the club. I have a lot of good friends here and we have worked hard to get where we are.
“We would obviously love to win the title. That is still an objective.
“I have won every major honour in the Irish League apart from the title. That is something I would love to do before I finish playing.
“It is a lot easier said than done, but I have the Irish Cup and Setanta Cup to remember when I retire. The Setanta is probably the biggest one for me. Also winning a full Northern Ireland cap, that was special.
“So I can’t complain too much with what I have achieved – I wouldn’t change any of it.”
Coates is hoping to return to action tonight after recovering from an ankle injury.
It should prove a baptism of fire for the former Northern Ireland international, who expects to come up against a livewire Huddersfield attacking line at Seaview.
“It will be a difficult game, and I see they have recently signed Jermaine Beckford, so that will be a tough one,” he joked.
“My fist game back in eight weeks and I could be marking him.
“I hope to play at least a half on Wednesday night. I am back training so I am ready for a run out.
“It would be disappointing not to be able to play a part in my own testimonial. So hopefully I get a chance.
“We have a good line-up with Stuart Dallas coming back to play. Also Eamon Doherty, Gary Smyth and few others will feature. Also Carl Frampton is playing in a supporters’ game before the main match.
“Hopefully people can come down and enjoy it.”
Tonight’s game kicks-off at 7.45pm at Seaview.