IRISH LEAGUE: Billy Joe Burns becoming accustomed to success with Crusaders

Billy Joe Burns celebrates Crusaders title success
Billy Joe Burns celebrates Crusaders title success

Crusaders defender Billy Joe Burns is becoming accustomed to champagne parties!

The former Linfield man was named the Ulster Footballer of the Year on Friday before picking up his second Danske Premiership winners' medal with Crusaders at Seaview 24 hours later.

He turned in another majestic performance against Coleraine before the celebrations got under way.

“It’s a big surreal,” said the modest defender.

“I’m flattered to win it. In fact anyone of our guys could have won it. I think Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte are the two stand out players in the league, so it’s nice to get it in front of those boys.

“It’s great to get personal awards, but the league title is the one we were all after. There were many big turning points in games over the course of the season, but the amount of late goals we scored proved vital.

“I think that shows the character we have in this team. We hit the front quite early, so to stay there throughout the season is quite remarkable.

“It also shows the consistency we have in the side. We’ve also had a run of clean sheets, which helps win league titles.

“It also speaks volumes for the likes of Sean O’Neill and Colin Coates. Teams try that wee bit harder against champions.

“It takes a good team to win the league, but an even better one to retain. There is now way we’ll be resting on our laurels.”

Goalkeeper Sean O’Neill, a big favourite on the terraces at Seaview, was his usual jovial self after another day to relish in North Belfast.

“I love this club and it’s days like this is why I want to play for this club,” he beamed.

“Every team in the country did its level best to beat us this season. But we rolled up our sleeves to show what we are made of and we proved we are worthy champions. We did it for the fans because they have been fantastic.

“I can assure we are here to say. We are going to be right up there next year as well.

“There have been many key moments this season, but I think our Boxing Day win over Cliftonville was crucial. I think our momentum really gathered pace after that.

“Fair play to Linfield. They gave it a right go. They had a poor November that left them playing catch-up. But they chased us right to the wire.”

Midfielder Jordan Forsythe is very much the new boy of the squad, but he has fitted in seamlessly since his move from Bangor last summer. He admits that winning a title medal in his first year is a dream come true.

“The manager showed a great desire to bring me to Crusaders and hopefully I have helped repay his faith in me,” he said.

“He told me I’d win a league winners’ medal at Crusaders and he was true to his word.

“Stephen instilled a lot of confidence in me, telling be to my normal game every week. I’ve had a fantastic year, capped by this title win. I didn’t know how I was going to get into this team, but I played in most matches, which I’m thrilled about.”