IT may only be October but the Irish League title race is already starting to take shape.
And Oran Kearney has a clear message - ‘we’re not here to make up the numbers!’
The Bannsiders are currently second in the table on goal difference behind leader Cliftonville following Saturday’s comfortable 2-0 win over Dungannon Swifts.
Kearney is determined to keep them at the summit for as long as possible.
“We’ve been in the title race since the very first game of the season and until it’s mathematically impossible for us to win it I won’t give up on that belief,” Kearney told Times Sport.
“I’ve told the players many times that if they don’t have aspirations to win the title then they shouldn’t be sitting in that changing room.
“I’m not here to make up numbers and just be happy with fourth, fifth or sixth place in the table we’re here to win things and that includes the league.
“Realistically it’s going to be tough because we know the quality and squad depth the likes of Linfield have.
“But I’m a dreamer and I love to dream and I’ve been fortunate to win leagues and cups in my career and with the attitude and spirit we have at this club I would love to repay it with bringing success here.
“People might laugh our chances off, but I’m happy to throw our hat in the ring. Any team can win it at the minute and they should all want to win it.
“Nobody expects us to be in the mix, people are probably thinking it will only be a matter of time before we drop out of it.
“But there’s no pressure on us and we are playing with freedom. You can see that with the spirit in the dressing room.
“As a coach you can tell players this, that and the other, but the one thing which breeds confidence is winning games.”
Kearney knows that it will be tough to break Linfield’s stranglehold on the Gibson Cup especially if he loses key members of his squad.
“It’s tough for us when we pick up injuries like we’ve done with David Scullion and Darren Boyce. If that happens at Linfield like for like comes in,” he explained.
“Linfield manage their budget well, they don’t pay the biggest wages like some clubs who put a lot of it on certain players, they spread it out over the squad and you can’t begrudge them being well managed.
“From our point of view it is budgetary more than anything else.
“We have a squad of 21 here so at the minute I’m down to 15 fit players. But I’ll back every one of those 21 players.”
The Bannsiders will be hoping to keep their recent unbeaten league record going when they travel to Glenavon this Saturday.
It hasn’t been a happy hunting ground of late for Coleraine as Kearney is well aware.
“I think Glenavon are one of the more improved sides this season especially with Gary Hamilton and Guy Bates up front,” he said.
“I watched them the night they beat Portadown on Sky. Bates had been out of the game for a while but week by week he is getting stronger and fitter.
“It’s always tough when we go there. Last year when we went there they had been on a losing streak and they ended that against us.”