IRISH LEAGUE: Crusaders captain Colin Coates taking nothing for granted as title glory beckons

Colin Coates celebrates last week's big win over Linfield
Colin Coates celebrates last week's big win over Linfield

Crusaders may be on the cusp of historic back-to-back titles, but captain Colin Coates insists the champagne remains on ice.

Last week’s late win against Linfield has left the Crues eight points clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership.

With just four games remaining this season, another Gibson Cup success seems a formality for Stephen Baxter’s men.

Victory on Saturday against Glenavon could seal their fate, but only if nearest rivals Linfield fail to beat Coleraine at Windsor Park.

It seems only a matter of time before Coates gets to raise the famous Premiership trophy aloft once again, but the 30-year-old is refusing to take anything for granted.

“We are very close now, but we are still not over the line. So until we finally do win the title we will just keep on focusing on our next game,” Coates said.

“Obviously last week’s win over Linfield was massive. If we had lost our lead would have been whittled down to just two points.

“Even a draw would have kept it at five, and we have some big games still to come.

“So to get that win, especially so late in the game, was massive for us. It has left us in a very good position, but there is work to be done.”

Coates admits the challenge of winning back-to-back titles has proved a formidable one for the Crues this season.

“The club has never defended the title, so there is pressure from that,” he added.

“It has also been proved over the years how difficult it is for any club to defend the Gibson Cup.

“It has been a massive challenge this season, but I think in the end we proved what this side is about. We gritted our teeth and had to grind out a lot of results, and we have proved our character.

“Last Saturday was a big example of how tough we are. The pressure was massive against Linfield, but we wanted to win the game and extend our lead at the top – and we did that.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to Mourneview Park to face Glenavon, Coates admits it will be another stern examination of Crusaders’ title credentials.

“We have Glenavon and then Cliftonville away from home over the next few days – they are both fighting for third spot so they are tough games,” he added.

“Usually at this stage of the season most teams have nothing to play for. But apart from maybe Coleraine and Glentoran, everyone else has some sort of objective, whether it be European qualification or survival. So they are all big games.”