Yesterday evening Crusaders announced the signing of Derry City forward Rory Patterson on a one year deal. The Irish League Champions moved for the proven striker following a hamstring injury to club record scorer Jordan Owens in their Champions League qualifier defeat against Ludogorets.

A player with a clinical eye for goal

Rory Patterson has a goals to games ratio in local football that is not only to be respected but also envied. His 93 goals in 180 appearances for Derry City is added to 4 league goals in 18 appearances while on loan with Linfield in 2011-12 and his 30 league goals in 33 appearances in his senior debut season in Ireland with Coleraine in 2009-10.

Rory Patterson, quite simply, has an eye for goal. He’s capable of the spectacular but also one of those players who just appears to know where to be for the vital moment in an attacking move. At 34 years old Patterson may have lost a yard of pace but that instinctive knowledge still sets him apart from most players on the local scene.

Much more than a journeyman

The journeyman tag is used to describe players who have plied their trade with a number of different clubs but more often than not has never really excelled at any of them. This certainly is not the case for Rory Patterson.

Patterson’s senior football career began in 2002 with Rochdale, making 15 appearances before being released and joining non-league Radcliffe Borough. His stay with The Boro lasted a mere 4 months before signing for Mossley – another club for which he managed only a single figure number of appearances.

It was when Patterson moved on to upcoming FC United of Manchester that he made his real breakthrough. Gaining promotion in each of his three seasons with the club he became (and remains to date) their record goalscorer with 99 goals in his 129 appearances. A move to Bradford Park Avenue transpired where Rory managed to grab 11 goals in 20 appearances despite a season ravaged by injury.

In 2009 a further move to Droylsden came about before he made his return home. A fantastic first season with Coleraine with 30 league goals and a further 11 in other competitions, the highlight of which was four goals in a 6-0 rout of Glentoran at The Oval in November – sadly, as a Glentoran fan, I was present to watch this.

Again as a Glentoran fan,  I was overjoyed when it was announced that Patterson would be joining the club at the conclusion of his first season with Coleraine. However, his goalscoring exploits by then had alerted bigger clubs in England and as such Plymouth Argyle swooped to sign Patterson from Glentoran before he had even taken to the pitch. Things didn’t work out at The Pilgrims and a loan back to Northern Ireland was agreed with Linfield sealing the temporary move.

Patterson ended his loan spell with Linfield to begin the first of his two spells with Derry. After a brief spell away in Australia coaching and playing – scoring 20 goals in 19 appearances for Cockburn City SC – and a five appearance return to FC United of Manchester, Rory finally returned to Derry in December 2015. Patterson has not been having his best season in a Derry shirt but comes to Crusaders with a goal to his name in their most recent fixture on Friday evening.

Is he really a controversial figure?

Rory Patterson has had his fair share of critics but there is no reason to suggest that at this stage in his career he has anything left to prove. Patterson’s goalscoring record on the pitch speaks for itself and he has previously spoken about wanting to shake his ‘bad boy image’ when he returned to Derry in 2015. If Patterson is given the right kind of service then Stephen Baxter may well have some difficult selection decisions to make when Jordan Owens returns to full fitness!

Despite my obvious disappointment of never seeing Rory Patterson take to the field in a Glentoran shirt (and not having a chance to clear that 6-0 rout from my memory) I cannot wait to see what he can do back in the Irish League at a club like Crusaders who are most definitely riding the crest of a wave and may continue to do so for years to come!

Subject to international clearance, Rory Patterson may be eligible for selection for the Crues’ opening league fixture on Monday 6th August.