Interview By Stephen Looney
“It was just too hard for me to leave”, says Crusaders legend Jordan Owens on his move into coaching at Seaview. The 33-year-old recently put pen to paper on a new, two-year-deal at the club he has been at for fifteen years. The deal will see 'Chicken' take on a coaching role alongside fellow Crues legend Chris Morrow at U18 level. Both are former title and multiple cup winners with Crusaders, enjoying glittering careers on the field of play. 37-year-old Morrow retired last year at Brantwood while Owens is still very much a part of Stephen Baxter's plans with the Crues. They join Declan Caddell as another stalwart of the club moving into a coaching role as the club aims to inspire the next generation of legends.
Owens has seen his playing time reduced as Father Time takes a hand in his career and was linked with a potential move away from the Shore Road a year ago to get more minutes. However, his loyalty to and affection for Crusaders proved too much as Owens reveals how the move into coaching came about. “Deccy had been on to me asking if I would be interested in helping out on the coaching side with an underage side”, Owens told Crues website. “That was last year and I was still playing, so I told him I would think about it. “Deccy was at me again this season and spoke about helping with the U18s, and it appealed to me as I want to get into the coaching side of things. “I'm 34 in July but I will still be playing, though maybe not as much.
“I had a chat with the manager and he made it clear to me that he still wants me around to help the team. “My legs may not handle 30 games a season anymore but I still feel I can contribute to the team. “That may be coming off the bench for the last half hour of a game, or offering the manager a different option for a particular game. “When you're young, you think you're going to play forever but when you get older and you're not playing as much, it gets harder. “I've been a tiler this last ten years but, funny, it's not my knees that get sore, it's my hips and my back.
“I wanted to leave discussions about my future until the end of the season, after the Irish Cup Final, and then Stephen came to me to talk about the future. “I didn't speak to any other club recently but there was some interest in me last year, but I just couldn't leave, it was too hard. “I've been with Crusaders for fifteen years, it has been my whole life in football, bar a loan spell with Armagh City early on. “I always wanted to get into the coaching side of things and I'm delighted to be working alongside Chris again.
“When I first came into the team, Chris was probably our best player and it was a privilege to play in the same team. “He was unfortunate with injuries in his career but people loved Chris when he was at the Crues.” The Ballysillan man came through the ranks at Seaview with Caddell, who is now the Head of the Academy, and became a firm favourite with the fans and a lethal opponent for rival teams. He has scored 248 goals in 658 games for Crusaders, eclipsing Glen Hunter's record haul of 157 goals in 296 appearances, and there are surely more to come. Never one to seek the limelight, Owens' desire now is to help the club on both the coaching and playing fields.
“It's amazing to see the changes at the club since I first came here. “When I arrived, there were only two underage teams, U16s and U18s. “Now there are hundreds of players at the club, at all levels and ages, boys and girls, and there is a fantastic buzz about the place. “We have qualified for Europe almost every year and the club has been transformed, there has been a lot of hard work put in behind the scenes to make that possible. “I'm learning to walk before I can run. I'm delighted to have signed for another two years and I want to contribute to the first team as much as I can.“I also hope to lift a lot of the young lads, maybe help them and offer them advice as they start out on their careers.
“It's a new challenge for me and one I am very much looking forward to.”