Declan Caddell named as new Crusaders manager

Former midfielder will take the reins when Stephen Baxter steps down at the end of his season

Saturday's Irish Cup final was Declan Caddell's last game for Crusaders 
Former player Declan Caddell will succeed Stephen Baxter as Crusaders manager at the end of the season

DECLAN Caddell has been announced as the new manager of Crusaders.

The 35-year-old will replace current manager Stephen Baxter when the veteran steps down at the end of the season.

Baxter, currently the longest serving manager in top-flight football, is leaving after 19 years at the helm.

Caddell joined the Crues at the age of 15 and became a fans’ favourite over the next two decades as a player, winning three Premiership titles, as well as four Irish Cup winners’ medals.

After retiring at the end of the 2021/22 season, he made a dramatic return to playing during the 2022/23 season during an injury crisis at the club, going on to feature in the Irish Cup final win over Ballymena United last May.

A statement from the club read: “Crusaders Football Club are delighted to confirm that Declan Caddell will take over as manager after Stephen Baxter steps down.

“Caddell who joined Crusaders 21 years ago as a 15 year old, came through the club’s youth system and was a key player during Stephen Baxter’s amazing era at the club.” The statement continued.

“During his time as a player, Caddell won 3 league titles, 4 Irish Cups, 1 Setanta Cup, 3 Co Antrim Shields & 1 League Cup. Having retired, Declan was appointed as Head of Crusaders Football Academy in June 2022 implementing a youth review setting up the club’s Full Time Post 16 academy and has been an integral part of the club’s staffing structure since his retirement.

“At the minute, we are fully focused behind Stephen and the team to finish the season on a high. There will be no further comment at this time.”

The north Belfast outfit had kept their cards close to their chest up until this point, with Caddell considered an outsider for the post due to his relative inexperience in a management role.

Former Cliftonville boss Paddy McLaughlin was touted as a potential replacement, but the Shore Road club have stuck to what they know.

Caddell will have a challenge on his hands over the coming seasons with some of the club’s best players in the twilight of their careers, but as anyone who knows the player will attest, he is not one to shirk a challenge.