IRISH LEAGUE: Crusaders’ Stephen Baxter named BetMcLean manager of the month for November

Manager of the month for November  sponsored by Bet McLean ,Crusaders Stephen Baxter pictured with Keith Bailie', NIFWA chairman
Manager of the month for November sponsored by Bet McLean ,Crusaders Stephen Baxter pictured with Keith Bailie', NIFWA chairman

Stephen Baxter hailed his squad for their achievements during November which led to the Crusaders boss being named BetMcLean manager of the month.

The North Belfast team produced a stunning string of result in the month, claiming wins over Dundee United - in the Irn-Bru Scottish Challenge Cup - Linfield, Ards, Dungannon Swifts and Carrick Rangers.

Members of the Northern Ireland Football Writers Association did not have a difficult choice to make in giving it to the Crues manager.

Baxter said, “It’s a great honour for me to win this award and I would like to thank NIFWA for selecting me. It really is appreciated.

“November was a big month for us with seven fixtures in four different competitions, but thankfully we came out of it with six wins and a draw against Coleraine.

“The players have been superb for me and this award is a recognition of their achievements.”

He went on: “I often say when I win an award, it means the team is playing pretty well, which pleases me no end, so to lift this award is an honour.

“The team has been motoring really, really nicely and you’ve got to keep everyone focused on their jobs and when one or two people have been really, really outstanding in the month, it’s good to see them honours, too.

“When players pick up Player of the Month it is always a terrific honour for them because that show they have been particularly outstanding, and that’s always a good thing.

As the clock ticks down to the end of the transfer window Baxter said: “We look at trophies and competitions we’re playing in; The Scottish Challenge Cup was one we looked at because we played Linfield on the Wednesday night in the League Cup quarterfinal.

“The balance of the team has been good; we’ve been able to make four or five changes and not completely weaken ourselves.

“We have still been very competitive but I’ve also had to shuffle a little bit because of one or two injuries and the like.

“On the whole, the panel is holding up rightly but we may need one or two reinforcements in the next week or two, going into the January window.

“At this moment in time, though, the team is doing extremely well.

“We need one or two positions strengthened because if we get one or two injuries down the track, it could be difficult for us.

“Last year we struggled in the back four when we lost Colin (Coates) long-term. He missed the second half of the season and we weren’t able to find the adequate replacement because it’s harder to find those players in January.

“We’re trying very hard, as everyone else is, but it’s a hard market out there at this time of year, I find it a difficult time of year.”

Paul McLean of NIFWA sponsor BetMcLean said, “I’m delighted to hear that Stephen has won our award as Crusaders have been in fine form in recent weeks.

“At BetMcLean we are always on the look out for an upset, and Crusaders certainly provided that when they defeated Dundee United at Tannadice.”

Meanwhile, Ballymena United’s Johnny Murray’s stunning long range effort during the win against Linfield on November 10 was voted NIFWA ‘goal of the month’.

And the Championship player of the month award for November has gone to Institute’s Michael McCrudden.

McCrudden has been in inspirational form for Institute in recent weeks, helping them to wins over Larne and Lurgan Celtic, and performing well in a 2-2 draw with Portadown.

The former Ballinamallard United man said, “It’s been a difficult time for the club after the problems we have had with the Riverside, so for the players, it’s important that we give the fans something to cheer about. I think we’ve done that in recent weeks.

“It’s an honour for me to win this award but I have thanks my team mates and the coaching staff at the club.”