'I don't think you'll ever see another Stevie Baxter again' - Former Irish League ace hails outgoing Crusaders boss

With Stephen Baxter set to end his Crusaders reign after 19 years and over 900 matches in charge, Stevie Coulter believes the Irish League will never see another like the legendary boss again – but is backing former teammate Declan Caddell to thrive as successor.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Baxter, the world’s current longest-serving manager, announced earlier this year that this season would mark his last in the Seaview dugout after collecting 14 senior trophies, including three Premiership titles and four Irish Cup crowns.

The 58-year-old helped the North Belfast outfit, who he enjoyed two successful periods with as a player, achieve promotion back to the top-flight in his first full season at the helm and also qualified for Europe a remarkable 12 times – a number which he hopes to increase by one more before departing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Coulter spent two seasons under Baxter in the early stages of his Crusaders rebuild having previously starred for Loughgall and says it was an honour to play for a “complete legend”.

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates winning the 2017/18 Irish League title. PIC: Stephen Hamilton/InphoCrusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates winning the 2017/18 Irish League title. PIC: Stephen Hamilton/Inpho
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter celebrates winning the 2017/18 Irish League title. PIC: Stephen Hamilton/Inpho

"I couldn't believe it,” he reflected on first hearing the news of Baxter’s departure. “I suppose the day had to come sometime, but I couldn't imagine the club without him.

"He's phenomenal. He's such a motivator and he had you built up going out onto the pitch and had so much trust in his players. I don't think you'll ever see another Stevie Baxter again - I really don't.

"He had such an aura in the dressing room...I know every manager has their respect, but Stevie was incredible. I’ve worked under great managers, but when I went to Baxter he had this extra passion for football, his players and winning. He's a complete legend and I can't speak highly enough of that man.

"What he has achieved with Crusaders is fairy tale stuff.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Caddell will step into his first senior management role ahead of next season after winning a plethora of major honours as a player at Seaview, which included coming out of retirement to collect a fourth Irish Cup last season.

He has been serving as head of the club’s academy over the past two years, passing on his experience of coming through the same system from the age of 15, and Coulter praised Crusaders for fully backing one of their own.

"When I seen Decky got it I was absolutely delighted - what a guy he is,” he added. “He retired probably a couple of years early to concentrate of his coaching and took that youth development role, which was a big call.

"He did the right thing and I'm delighted that the club have appointed him and showed belief in him. It would have been easy to go and employ somebody of a higher stature so I'm really impressed the Crues have done that. They are a great club that go about their business in the right way.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I expect Decky's squad to have the same traits (as Baxter’s) with probably a more modern philosophy of his own that he has no doubt developed.

"I have no doubt he will do a great job. It's a tough job because of what he's following. There are big expectations and it's a difficult place to be in that top-four or five in the Premiership with so much talent and resources for so many clubs.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.