Jonny Tuffey vows to give Crusaders new-boy Jude Winchester all the support he needs

Jonny Tuffey says Jude Winchester has been given a warm welcome to the Crusaders and he is hoping the midfield ace will thrive in his new footballing home of north Belfast.

After deciding to leave Ballymena United, Winchester said he believed it was a move that would help his mental health and keep him closer to his family.

The 28-year-old former Kilmarnock man, who played 104 games for the Sky Blues, has now started a new chapter in his career, starting with a substitute in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Warrenpoint Town.

Tuffey, who has eight caps in Northern Ireland, is confident that Winchester has received the best support and care at Ballymena United and he is confident the same will be the case at Crusaders, a club that pride themselves on being a to create a family atmosphere.

“Rest assured, if Jude needs to speak to anyone at the club, they will be welcomed with open arms and we will do what we can to help,” Tuffey said.

“I’m sure David Jeffrey and Ballymena United and the players were exactly the same.

“Mental health is an issue that is now being talked about in football and in society and I have no doubt that Jude has had all the love and attention he needed from David and his colleagues at Ballymena – and he will certainly get the same thing at Crusaders.

“I watched Jude play for a long time, he was in the U21 team when I trained a bit and I played him countless times. He’s an exciting player and there’s no doubting his talent and ability.

“He’s another fantastic addition to the squad and it’s another fantastic deal from the manager. We are delighted to have him on board and look forward to seeing the best of him soon.”

Winchester joins a Crues team keen to build on their positive form, with defense in particular showing steel and resilience. The exclusion at Milltown was their fifth clean sheet in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Next up is second placed Glentoran, putting pressure on points leader Linfield as the title race heats up.

“We worked hard in practice and in games,” Tuffey added. “Staying clean is huge for everyone. We defend from the front, as a unit and the lads were excellent.

“It’s sheer hard work, determination and organization and we’ve worked hard on all aspects of our game, luckily it’s paying off.

“They’re all big games in the league now and fair play for Mick McDermott and Paul Millar, they’re building a fantastic squad and team.

“We have no illusions about how difficult this game will be. We prepared well in training and will be ready.”

Tuffey, who is delighted with the appointment as manager of the Crusaders Strikers, feels the television coverage of the games has highlighted the rising standards.

“I think our game is fantastic, the league has made progress but there will always be positives and negatives that are found by different people at different times for whatever reason,” said the former Partick Thistle number one.

“Overall, the league is making positive strides forward and may it stay that way for a long time to come. The televised games have been excellent and everyone is encouraged by the progress of the league.

“I’m definitely enjoying it. Crusaders are a great club and great people at the club. I enjoy my football very much.”

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