Friday, 28 September 2007

Crusaders to move home

I must admit to a twinge of regret and nostalgia on learning that Crusaders FC’s membership has voted to sell Seaview and relocate to a stadium elsewhere.

The Shore Road ground was one of the tightest venues in the Irish League, which contributed to a frequently excellent atmosphere.

Although Seaview wasn’t always the easiest place to gain a result, with the Hatchetmen famed for their physical style of play, Ballymena enjoyed some notable moments at the ground. Few fans will forget a thrilling 4-3 win featuring two long range goals from Neil Candlish. Cult hero Tony “Nobby” Hall also thrilled the away supporters in 1994 with a spectacular Brazilian style banana kick which had the home team’s net bulging. And only last season current favourite Kevin Kelbie netted against Linfield in the County Antrim Shield Final in front of a jam packed stadium.

Seaview of course had its problems as well. Last season a wall behind the home terrace fell down in high winds unto the Belfast – Londonderry railway line and the terrace was closed for some time. Crusaders also experienced problems with hooliganism in the late 80s and early 90s and many supporters will recall leaving the ground in buses bombarded with hails of missiles.

Crusaders’ home ground, however, is a traditional and characterful little stadium, which played host to Liverpool during their successful European Cup campaign of 1977. It will be a loss to the club and to the Irish League in general, as it provided a suitable neutral venue for many tournament semi-finals and finals. I can only hope that their new home retains the virtues which made Seaview one of the more enjoyable football grounds in Northern Ireland to visit.

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