Josh Carson will head into the BetMcLean League Cup final aware of the high stakes for Coleraine across both the present and future, following frustrations of the past.
The former Linfield playmaker made the move to the Bannsiders in 2017 with a view to pushing forward within Oran Kearney’s revolution.
Carson’s sparkling form helped the Bannsiders complete that first campaign as Irish Cup champions and Danske Bank Premiership runners-up.
Hopes of a fresh dawn with Coleraine a driving force hit a major hurdle with a dismal start to the following season, Kearney’s departure to St Mirren and a nine-month period under Rodney McAree that culminated in a club struggling for confidence and identity.
Kearney’s return last summer sparked a second shot at a bright future that has included a major say in the high drama of the title race alongside a spot in the weekend League Cup showdown with Crusaders.
“With the players in this squad, we always thought we could achieve something and could go a step further and do everything that there is to win in this league,” said Carson. “We do believe that, I think we always knew we had the ability.
“Last season was horrific from the get-go - we had a lot of games under Oran at the start then Oran went and we brought in Rodney.
“For one reason or another it didn’t work, boys didn’t take to what he was trying to do.
“When we got out on the pitch it just didn’t happen at all.
“There were different formations and styles coming into a team which, at that stage, had been solely 4-4-2.
“He tried to toy with it and put his own style on it, which I had no problem with but other players didn’t react to it at that time.
“We had to take responsibility for that - Rodney was putting the players out on the pitch and we were not performing, it was as simple as that.
“But Oran’s back and everything’s going the way it should be and the football club should be.
“If we can keep the ball rolling and try to be as consistent as we can that, with the good additions, is only go to improve us and make us better.”
Carson considers a first prize of Kearney’s second spell in charge as a significant stepping stone towards cementing Coleraine as a club in the conversation for sustained success.
“At the start of the season I could see us trying to get back to where we were before Oran had left,” said Carson. “Hopefully we can be there the next four, five or six years.
“We are a so-called top-six team but by right now.
“It’s no coincidence we are going and beating the likes of Glentoran, Crusaders and Linfield and showing we can mix it with the big boys.
“I always thought that, looking around the squad, when planning in my head where I could see us being.
“We always see us there challenging, knocking on the doors of the so-called big-hitters and trying to stand in their patch and do what they do.
“Realistically at the start of the season you want to win as many games and go as far as you possibly can.
“You take it game-by-game and see where you end up.
“The money is crucial in football, it’s massive.
“You look at Linfield, Glentoran, Crusaders and Larne.
“They have massive squads with loads of players to choose from - but at Coleraine we’ve 16 or 17 week in, week out.
“So it’s about using that in our favour, there are no cliques or separate groups.
“We are all in it together.”