Stephen Baxter's exploits rightly honoured but he has a bigger leaving gift in mind

A picture of Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter receiving his Hall of Fame award from Michael Clarke
Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter receives his Hall of Fame award from Michael Clarke -Credit:Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Stephen Baxter may be closing in on his exit from Crusaders but he is determined to leave in style after passing another huge milestone.

Saturday's win over Coleraine marked Baxter's 950th game in charge of the Crues and he was rightly honoured at the NI Football Awards later that evening when he was inducted into the Dr Malcolm Brodie Hall of Fame. But while he appreciates personal accolades, his long-time assistant Jeff Spiers insisted Baxter's target is securing another season of European football for the Seaview outfit.

"We're just concentrating on the last three games as it's in Stephen's nature to win," said Spiers after Crusaders confirmed fourth place. "He wasn't coming up here today to get a point, he wanted the win and we were able to achieve that. I know he will demand everything from the players for the final three games.

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"He's been here 19 years and managed 950 games which will not happen again for a long, long time. It's an unbelievable record. He's been a credit to the Irish League and we still hopefully have three games to go. I know with how he acts that he wants us to win every one of them."

Baxter's opposite number on Saturday, Oran Kearney, doubted whether he would get anywhere close to those numbers and said it will be strange not seeing him in the Crusaders dugout next season with Declan Cadell set to take over.

"Yeah It will be strange when playing Crusaders next season and not see him standing in the opposition technical area, but I'm sure Decky is chomping at the bit looking to put his own stamp on it," he said.

"During my time at Coleraine I have only ever known Stephen Baxter as Crusaders manager. To put up with everything that you have to deal with being a manager, I know how he feels and fair play to him.

"I don't know if I'll last that long to be honest with you. Credit to him, he's a gentleman and I'll be the first to wish him well come the end of the season."

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