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13 Jan 2022
© Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press Jude Winchester

Jude Winchester has signed for Crusaders following his departure from Ballymena United.

The 28-year-old makes the switch to Seaview following three-and-a-half years with the Sky Blues during which time he clocked up 104 appearances and scoring 14 times including a goal in the Europa League victory over NSi Runavik.

With his contract due to expire in the summer United boss David Jeffrey had made the highly rated midfielder an improved offer to remain at The Showgrounds but, in an open statement, Winchester explained his reasons behind the move: "This is a decision that I've taken in consultation with the club and my family, and wasn't one taken lightly.

"Over the past year or so, whilst on the pitch things have been going great, off the pitch I've been struggling with my mental health and it got to the stage where I felt I had to sit down with my family and with David and have a full conversation about it.

"David made me an offer to stay, it was a brilliant offer, which others would have bitten his hand off and in a different circumstance I wouldn't have thought twice, but for reasons off the pitch I couldn't agree to a deal.

"For me and my family it was best that for my career and mental health that I could work closer to Belfast and allow me to be at home more. We had long chats over the last couple of weeks about what’s best for Ballymena United and for me, and the conclusion was that I move on now."

David Jeffrey added: "This is ultimately one of those occasions where we found ourselves in a situation of needing to think what was best for the club and the player.

"Through our talks with Jude we explored the best ways to support him, but also he recognised that there's a responsibility on us to look after the club too. Ultimately we reached an agreement with Crusaders to allow him to move to them earlier in the hope that him being closer to home is a greater help to him and his family.

"We thank Jude for his contribution during his time here, he is wonderfully talented as we got to see over the past three and a half years and we give him every best wish not just for his career but predominantly to him as a person and for his family too."