Staying up has to be Institute's aim
Skipper Michael McCrudden knows Institute will be one of the bookmaker's favourites for relegation next season when they return to the Danske Bank Premiership.
The talented striker claims they have been written off before and don’t mind the underdogs tag, believing if they finish just above the relegation zone then it will constitute a successful season.
“Look, if we finish 10th and avoid relegation then it will be a successful season no matter what anyone says,” he insisted.
“We are used to being written off. It was strange last season because we weren’t meant to win anything, though we were quietly confident within our own group that we wanted promotion. We didn’t want any play-offs or anything like that. We were aiming for the title but no one ever said that out loud, we played it down every time and it worked out well.
“And, yes, this season again we’ll be written off. Probably ourselves and Newry City will be the favourites to get relegated but there will be teams who we’ll be targeting, who are going to be around the same level as us and the way Paddy McLaughlin has us setup, we’ll be fitter and stronger than some teams and that will put us in good stead.
The former Derry City man says ’Stute will be aiming to get positive results against sides who will also be fighting for their lives at the bottom end of the table and he’s warning his team-mates there will be times next season when things don’t go their way in the Danske Bank Premiership. Despite that, he believes they need to stay positive.
“There will be times next season when we might go four or five games without winning, but we can’t lose our heads,” he stated.
“I remember the last time we were in the Premiership. We started off really well and then went a few games not winning and the momentum just kept building and we couldn’t get a result.
“This season that can’t happen. Look, if we get whacked by one of the big teams, so what? We need to clear that out of our minds because the following week we could have a game against a team that we could beat.
“If we can get results against the teams in and around us then that’s great and if we can get anything against the big boys, that’s a bonus.”
McCrudden, who won Bluefin Championship Player of the Year last season, insists the full-time mentality inside the ’Stute dressing room will help them in the long term and he believes for Irish League football to improve clubs need to change their attitude.
“Yes, the Irish League is part-time but we’ll be in Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and recovering session on Sundays,” he explained.
“We have been doing that for a few years now and it will put us in good stead fitness wise, but the players have no problems putting in the hours.
“We don’t do it for the money, we just do it for the love of the game and have respect for Paddy and Brian Donaghey. We have to suck it up and put the work in but we all enjoy it.
“To be honest, I think that’s the way a lot of clubs need to go if you want football as a whole to improve in Northern Ireland. Obviously, the League of Ireland is a huge step ahead of us in terms of that but I feel if we want the game to improve in the Irish League then that’s the way you have to go.
“I know it’s difficult for clubs and players and, to be honest, as a player you need to have the will to do it. It’s good that we have a great bunch of players who do want to put in the hours. There’s no one who goes against the tide and says, ‘No, this isn’t for me’ or spits the dummy out. Everyone is in it together.
“Even if you miss a training session for one reason or another, the players within our squad are up the next day in the gym doing their bit, that’s just the way it is. That’s just the mentality we have as a group of players and if we can take that into next season then I think we can do okay.”
The 26-year-old, like entire Institute squad, can’t wait to play Irish League football at the Brandywell next season.
“Kevy Doc (Kevin Doherty, former coach) told us at the end of last season that we had trained in 14 different places due to everything that happened last season at Drumahoe, so it’s good now that we are going to have a home for a full season,” he said.
“We are going to train there, we’ll have our pre-match at the ground and we’ll obviously play there, so it’s great to know that it’s set in stone that the Brandywell will be our home pitch.
“It’s a big pitch which is why Paddy wants us so fit. We also like to play a bit of football and with the Brandywell being a 3G surface that will suit us but it also means that we need to be fit if we want to get the ball down and play.
“We were in the gym on Saturday doing our testing and everybody seems good to go, everyone seems to have kept themselves in good nick over the summer. That’s great to see and it will benefit us now over the next six weeks during pre-season.
“A few of us were playing five-a-side in the Bay Road and in a few Summer Cup competitions, which was good to get minutes under your belt again after having four weeks off, but those games just means everyone just can’t wait to get going again.
“Everyone is itching and ready to go and that’s pleasing. I’m no different I can’t wait to get started.”