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Crusaders midfielder Declan Caddell feeling the benefits of full-time football

Declan Caddell feels fresher after availing of extra sessions at Crusaders who have gone full-time this season

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Linfield v Crusaders (today, Windsor Park, 3pm)

 

CRUSADERS midfielder Declan Caddell says he’s already feeling the benefits of the north Belfast club going full-time this season and believes the defending champions have turned the corner after a difficult start to their campaign.

The Shore Road outfit made the audacious move to offer full-time contracts to its players and while there have been some teething problems Caddell feels the future is bright.

The west Belfast man has a full-time job but thanks to a flexible employer the 30-year-old has been able to avail of extra sessions at the club.

“The smart thing the club has done is they’ve made it flexible,” Caddell explained.

“Players obviously have other jobs. Stephen and the club knew they weren’t going to click their fingers and go full-time overnight. It would be massive upheaval.

“This is a long-term project. Obviously you’ll have teething problems – things will work, other things won’t work – but it’s all about learning.”

He added: “There are three extra sessions put on in the mornings and you obviously get paid accordingly depending what sessions you do.

“The likes of Paul Heatley and Colin Coates can’t afford to take time off work, whereas others may be a bit more flexible so they can.

“We have a team that has been together for quite a while but I think going forward it will be good for younger players, maybe players who have come home from England where they didn’t quite make it, and it still gives them the opportunity to play full-time football.”

Caddell has been able to add in a few extra sessions with an emphasis on recovery rather than extra training.

“A lot of the sessions have been geared around recovery, not so much going out and doing more work to get fitter.

“It’s more about recovery and making sure you’re right for Saturday. It’s made a difference to me throughout the season.

“If you’re playing on a Tuesday night and you’re into work on a Wednesday and you’re on your feet all day, you don’t recover as well, whereas now you have that opportunity to go in where there’s professional coaching and physiotherapists and they work on your body and you’re better for it.

“Recovery-wise, it’s 100 per cent. Last year, I would have been sore for a day or two after a game, but this year I feel fine the day after a game.”

Other Irish League clubs are watching with interest to see how the full-time experiment plays out at Seaview.

“Depending on how it goes for ourselves and what benefits we get out of it will determine what others do. If things go well for us, I don’t think clubs will have much choice but to do the same.”

After a disastrous start to the defence of their title, the Crues appear to have found their rhythm and are unbeaten since the 3-0 defeat to Ballymena United on October 27.

“I think we’ve turned the corner because at the start of the season we couldn’t get a settled starting XI, so it there was a lot of chopping and changing. But over the past month that has changed and Paul Heatley's great form has helped us.”

A lack of hunger, Caddell insists, has not been the reason why the Crues have lost six games already this season, double the amount they lost in clinching the title last season.

“I think it all depends on a player’s personality. What we have in our squad are born winners and once you have that competitive edge and you have that little taste of success you want more of it. Any game I play in I want to win and that has never changed since I was 18, and I’m 30 now.”

The loss of Gavin Whyte to Oxford United in the close season and the amount of time taken up to prepare for their Champions League qualifying games undoubtedly hampered the Shore Road club at the beginning of the season.

“When we went into pre-season I don’t think we were able to spend as much time on fitness as other teams because we were travelling around Europe.

“And Gavin was obviously a big loss,” Caddell added, who hopes the side can close the gap on second-placed Linfield at Windsor Park today.

“Technically, Gavin was always a step ahead of everyone and you couldn’t stop him. When you look back he was too good for our league. He was the best player in the country last year and no matter who you bring in you can’t replace that kind of quality.”

Having joined the Crues as a teenager in 2007, Caddell has been handed a testimonial by the club this season.

The three-times league winner would sooner retire than play for another Irish League club.

“I’ve been at Crusaders since I was 15, so I’ve always been a one-club man. I had offers to go elsewhere, but I’m quite loyal that way. It would be hard to envisage playing for a different club. I’d quicker go into coaching than play for someone else.”

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Danske Bank Irish Premiership stats

Cliftonville v Glenavon

JAY Donnelly will not feature for the home side for the second week running as the media spotlight continues to stray away from the field of play. The Reds, however, hammered Dungannon Swifts last weekend and will be hard to beat today against an erratic Glenavon side.

Odds: H:6/4 D:13/5 A:11/8

Prediction: Draw

Coleraine v Ards

THE Bannsiders are still mourning the departure of Oran Kearney and have slipped to mid-table following back-to-back defeats. Still, Rodney McAree’s men should have too much quality for Ards who are rock bottom.

Odds: H:2/9 D:4/1 A:9/1

Prediction: Coleraine

Dungannon Swifts v Newry City

NEWRY will hope to use last week’s brilliant away win over Coleraine as a springboard after losing three of their last five games. They could overtake the Swifts near the foot of the table today. Darren Mullen's men need to win the ‘six-pointers’ to escape the clutches of relegation.

Odds: H:1/1 D:23/10 A:23/10

Prediction: Newry

Institute v Glentoran

INSTITUTE have been rightly lauded for their attractive style of play this season. They held Glenavon to a 3-3 draw last weekend and, apart from their heavy defeat to Linfield, they have been competitive in most games. Still, they haven’t won since the end of October.

Odds: H:9/5 D:23/10 A:6/5

Prediction: Draw

Linfield v Crusaders

THE Crues have finally found their stride and will only get stronger come January with the likes of Rory Hale and experienced ‘keeper Gerard Doherty bolstering their options. The Blues claimed an early season win over the Crues but they might find the going tougher even with home advantage.

Odds: H:11/10 D:5/2 A:2/1

Prediction: Draw

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STEPHEN O’Donnell is beginning to leave his imprint on this Warrenpoint side but they need to start turning draws into wins. They’d probably settle for a share of the spoils against the in-form Braidmen who are on a roll.

Odds: H:9/2 D:16/5 A:4/9

Prediction: Draw

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