Crusaders: Stephen Baxter’s praise for January deals as Hale signs before visit to Newry

Ronan Hale signs for Crusaders as manager Stephen Baxter looks on. Pic by PressEye Ltd.
Ronan Hale signs for Crusaders as manager Stephen Baxter looks on. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

Ronan Hale is hoping to repay the show of “faith” put in the player by Seaview boss Stephen Baxter following his move to Crusaders.

The former Birmingham City striker is back in Belfast and back in Crues colours thanks to the January deal completed in time for Hale to travel tonight to Newry City AFC.

Newry City AFC boss Darren Mullen. Pic by INPHO.

Newry City AFC boss Darren Mullen. Pic by INPHO.

The defending Danske Bank Premiership champions have enjoyed an ambitious New Year transfer window, with the latest signing’s brother Rory enjoying an eye-catching weekend debut display alongside Gerard Doherty in the Irish Cup victory over Glentoran. That tie also handed on-loan Reece McGinley a first appearance for the club off the sidelines.

Hale, who spent last season on loan at Derry City, initially left the Crusaders Football Development Centre programme to join Birmingham City.

“I am very pleased to come back to Crusaders and would like to thank Stephen and the club for showing faith in me on signing me back,” said Hale on the club’s official website. “I cannot wait to get going now and I know I have a job to do to hold down a spot but I want to show everyone what I can do.

“To play alongside Crusaders’ record goalscorer in Jordan Owens and a professional like Rory Patterson will only help me develop also.”

Baxter considers Hale a key addition as he heads into the Newry visit aiming to close the three-point gap at the head of the standings on current league leaders Linfield, with Ballymena United splitting the great rivals.

“I am excited to add Ronan to an already superb set of strikers and I believe he will make a massive impact as we enter the second half of the season,” said Baxter on the club’s official website. “He is a lad that has it all - from strength, speed and an eye for goal and supporters are in for an absolute treat when they see him play.

“He has teamed up with his brother Rory, with whom he played with at Derry City and, of course, he will know Gerard Doherty and Rory Patterson also.

“All have played together and that will help them a lot.”

Baxter took time out of his post-match Irish Cup praise to highlight the individual contribution of his fresh faces.

“Rory Hale was exceptional and we know his talent for a 22-year-old,” said Baxter. “He was named our ‘man-of-the-match’ winner today on his debut and whoever made that call got it right.

“You don’t play at Derry City or, at such a young age, in England without that ability, he is going to light this place up.

“We’d already seen in training his work-rate and quality of passing.

“Gerard is an experienced campaigner who has been around the block and knows this game inside and out.

“I’m pleased with our business, with Reece coming in too on loan from Rotherham United as an exciting player.

“But we’ve a number of exciting players - Paul Heatley is a good player, David Cushley is a good player and Jordan Owens is a good player, so we’ve a few.”

Newry boss Darren Mullen will face the Crues hoping for home comfort to halt a run without victory dating back to late November and covering five subsequent outings.

Eleven of the Newry club’s 16 points since top-flight promotion have come at The Showgrounds.

Mullen took to social media in the aftermath of the club’s Irish Cup defeat by Larne to praise his players’ improved effort, stating “can’t fault them for effort and commitment today...we will take it on the chin and move onto Friday”.⚪️