Football/Soccer

Crusaders Gavin Whtye is at a different level: Michael Gault

Michael Gault says joining Crusaders was an easy decision

Danske Bank Irish Premiership: Glentoran v Crusaders (Today, The Oval, 3pm)

MICHAEL Gault has hailed the performances of Crusaders team-mate Gavin Whyte and believes the talented wide man will be playing football at a higher level next season.

Gault, who moved to the Shore Road club in the summer, says he has a “new lease of life” after leaving Portadown – and couldn’t speak highly enough of the calibre of players at Seaview.

“It’s very early but there are players in our team now that could play in any of the teams I played in – the likes of Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte, Colin Coates – they’re fantastic players. It’s always hard to judge different eras and players but they’re as good as any I’ve played with.

“I’ve played against a lot of these boys for years so their quality doesn’t surprise me. You’ve got Declan Caddell there who reminds me of myself years ago.

“Every players needs somebody like that in their team to break up play. You’ve got Matthew Snoddy whose energy levels are unbelievable and there’s Richard Clarke as well.

“I studied with Richard for a few years and played against him. I always rated Richard but I didn’t realise how good he is at keeping and passing the ball.”

But the one team-mate who stands above the rest at the champions is Whyte.

Gault added: “Gavin Whyte has been the stand-out player. I knew he was a brilliant player but the last few games he has been frightening. He’s the best I’ve seen in the Irish League.

“He’ll not be playing here next year – he’ll be across the water. He’s so fast, he knows what to do with the ball, he’s scoring goals and setting goals up.”

Now 33, Gault has also been mightily impressed with manager Stephen Baxter and said it was a “no-brainer” to sign for the back-to-back champions.

“I rang Stephen the day after I met him and told him that I wanted to sign for Crusaders and that there was no point in talking to other clubs,” Gault explained.

“So that it was it done. He tried to get me to come in January but I stayed loyal to Ronnie McFall at Portadown. So it was a no-brainer to go to Crusaders.

“I obviously worked for David Jeffrey for a long, long time at Linfield and Stephen has got the same strength of character as David. He’s a great man-manager, he gets players going and you’d run through a brick wall for him. That’s the same feeling I experienced under David Jeffrey.

“Stephen’s brought players through from the lower ranks as well and he knows when to play players and when not to.”

The Crues haven’t lost a league game since March of last year and are already at the summit after just seven games played.

They travel to managerless Glentoran this afternoon in the hope of widening the gap between themselves and high-flying Ards.

Asked who he believes will be Crusaders’ biggest challengers for the Gibson Cup this season, Gault said: “It would have to be the Blues. David Healy has brought in a few good players – Sammy Clingan and Roy Carroll.

“Cliftonville have slipped a bit, Glenavon signed a few players but they’ve slipped back too. I think whoever finishes ahead of Linfield or Crusaders will win the league.”

Danske Bank Irish Premiership stats

Carrick Rangers v Linfield

CARRICK have lost their last three games and conceded 10 goals. Not the kind of defensive performances that Kieran Harding will be encouraged by ahead of Linfield’s visit who are unbeaten in the league.

Odds: H: 6/1 D:16/5 A:4/11

Prediction: Linfield

Cliftonville v Coleraine

THE Reds are missing some regular faces for the visit of Coleraine. The Bannsiders have a good record at Solitude in recent years and are the form team, winning their last three league games.

Odds: H:10/11 D:5/2 A:23/10

Prediction: Draw

Dungannon Swifts v Glenavon

THE Swifts will be keen to get back to winning ways after losing to champions Crusaders last weekend. Glenavon still aren’t firing on all cylinders despite Joel Cooper’s moment of magic in their 2-2 draw with Glentoran in mid-week.

Odds: H:13/5 D:5/2 A:5/6

Prediction: Draw

Glentoran v Crusaders

STEPHEN Baxter is without David Cushley (suspended) and Matthew Snoddy (injured) but the Crues boss isn’t short of midfielders. The Glens have doubts over Nacho Novo while former Moldovan international Alex Leu could come into the reckoning.

Odds: H:9/2 D:3/1 A:1/2

Prediction: Crusaders

Portadown v Ballymena United

DAVID Jeffrey’s Ballymena are unbeaten in their last three league outings while the Ports have lost four of their last five games. The Braidmen’s finishing power could see them pick up the three points here.

Odds: H:5/4 D:12/5 A:9/5

Prediction: Ballymena

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