Stephen Baxter hails Crusaders' bright young things
With one eye on Tuesday's Irish Cup semi-final Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter shuffled his squad for the visit of Coleraine.
With several big guns having the afternoon off Baxter used the game to take a look at the next generation of stars making their way up the ranks at Seaview.
Andrew Clarke and Brandon Bradshaw were handed starting berths with Jack Patterson and Thomas Burns making second half appearances.
If the young players needed any extra motivation Gavin Whyte, who has made his own impressive journey from the Crues youth team to professional football, was watching on from the stands.
"Gavin was here today and he is an example to anyone aspiring to be a professional footballer," said Baxter afterwards.
"I still remember him getting his first start as a young teenager.
"When I told one of the young lads the other night that he would be starting today he nearly dropped!
"He hasn't played in a year given everything that has happened, he has only trained for four weeks.
"I said to him "you're playing" and he couldn't believe it.
"But what excitement to get your first Irish League appearance at 16/17.
"I'm sure he didn't sleep much last night!
"It's good that they're here and learning at the top level, we'll see where their future takes them.
"Jack Patterson was over at West Ham and Everton last month, so he will emerge soon no doubt.
"Those are all good things for their careers, but I think it's good in my opinion that they can get a proper game of football and get exposed to this level of the game."
Despite losing the game 1-0 to Coleraine Baxter was pleased with what he saw.
"It's always great for me to see what is coming through, it gives me something to think about," he said.
"We had a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old and 17-year-olds on the pitch today.
"It is a big ask when they are coming in against a team like Coleraine. It's not like they were up against a bottom four team, they were playing against a team that's been in the top three all year.
"As I say they have acquitted themselves really well. It's pleasing to see some of the talent coming through.
"Football evolves and you need to see the young players at this level to see if they are capable."
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