Beverland says Irish League stars have to hold their festive focus

It's very easy to get carried away at Christmas. We all do it - we spend too much, eat too much and some of us drink too much.

Wednesday, 28th December 2016, 8:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:30 pm
Crusaders defender Howard Beverland. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton

But while we enjoy the excesses of the festive season, it is a very different story for our local footballers.

With those big derby games slap bang in the middle of the Christmas period and plenty more besides, the players know they can’t afford to take their eye off the ball - excuse the pun.

They know the hard yards and sacrifices they put in now will have a big bearing in what happens for the remainder of the season.

Cliftonville's David McDaid in action with Crusaders Howard Beverland. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

“It’s all about staying focused and keeping your eye on the bigger picture,” said Crusaders defender Howard Beverland.

“It’s very easy to get wrapped up in all the festivities because it is such a special time of the year, and there are a lot of parties going on.

“But as a player you know the sacrifices you make at times like these will all be worth it come the end of the season if you are challenging to win honours.

“The boss has spoken to us a few times in the build up to Christmas about the significance of these games.

Cliftonville's David McDaid in action with Crusaders Howard Beverland. Photograph by Stephen Hamilton/Presseye

“He has been reminding us of the importance of eating and drinking sensibly and not staying up late.

“But to be fair to all the lads we know the benefits of being disciplined and have no problem with the sacrifices which need to be made.

“You have to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

“There is nothing worse than looking back and thinking ‘if only’ and wondering if you could have prepared better.

“It’s all about short term sacrifices for long term gains.

“Plus there’s no better feeling than going home on Boxing Day with the three points, that’s the perfect Christmas present!”

Howard helped his Crues side to those points on Monday - and in some style with a 4-0 win over Cliftonville. But this time of year isn’t just about football for Howard. The festive season also has extra significance because of his faith.

“Being a Christian, it is a very important time of the year for me,” he said.

“Yes it’s nice to spend time with family and friends, and to be able to share gifts with each other, but for me what it’s really about is the birth of Jesus.

“As I always do I will be going to church on Christmas morning to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour.

“My faith has a huge impact on my life and that’s why Christmas means so much to me personally.

“This side of Christmas is very, very important to me.”

While the rest of us polish off the rest of our turkey and ham sandwiches, Howard is now preparing for another huge game in his side’s season - the showdown against second placed Linfield at Seaview on Saturday afternoon. The Crues could even go 10 points clear if they can grab a win.

He said: “There’s a lot at stake and that’s why it is so important that we are well prepared and fully focused on the job in hand.

“There’s plenty of time at the end of the season to enjoy any celebrations.”