Crewe United’s progress in the sixties and seventies began in West Belfast League, then the South Belfast league, the Lisburn Amateur League and eventually into the Northern Amateur League. Initially the club’s home base was Woodvale Park and this venue also doubled as a training facility. Some of the more prominent players in the sixties included Willie Lilburn, Roy McConnell and Gerry McCaffrey, who went on to play for Distillery and Northern Ireland. Another to follow the professional code was Tommy Brannigan who carved out a successful career at Glentoran and was a member of the famous that ran Benfica so close in the European Cup.
- Many players went on to professional ranks
- Jim Houston guided the club in the 70’S
- The Eighties saw Crewe clinch two consecutive League titles
- In 1983 the prestigious IFA Junior Cup was won
- In the 90’s the first Youth teams were established
The club’s major successes in the sixties were in the Lisburn Amateur League and owed much to the leadership of the late Jim McCann and others such as Noel Yarr, Kierean Dowd, Jackie Cummings (now a broadcaster with the BBC) and Hugh Forde. The only Ulsterman to be capped by the British Olympic Team, Hugh is now living in Australia. There was Paul McCambridge or “007” as he was known – an outstanding goal keeper who emigrated to Canada but has been back to visit the club several times. Other players who spring to mind are Pat Blakely, Ricky McGreevy, the McGurk brothers, Vinty Duffy, Freddie Dohery, Frank and Danny Agnew, Harry Cullen, Eugene McGeehan, Gerry and Tom McKenna. Then there was Archie Auld and Peter McCann both multi-talented and real characters as well. It is worth noting that Peter went to Glasgow Celtic who at the time were managed by the late Jock Stein. If only he could have settled in Glasgow he would have carved out a very successfuly career. Instead he joined the RAF and proceeded to play in all parts of the world before returning to close his career at York City.
In the seventies under the managerial guidance of Jim Houston the club was always in the running for honours and we remember players like Danny Russell, Eric McCloskey, Michael Copeland, Brendan Johns, Bart Copeland, Sean McGarry, Brian Dunn, Eddie Agnew and the Maguire brothers. The club captain in those times was Danny Agnew who stayed with the club for the entirety of his career.
The eighties saw the club progress from 2C to 1A of the Northern Amateur League under the guidance of team managers Tom McKenna and Ray Maguire. In the middle of this success was the acquisition of the Irish Junior Cup at Mourneview Park, Lurgan in 1983. A year later Crewe were back at the same venue in the sixth round of the Bass Irish Cup, but lost out to Glenavon after a tremendous performance.
The Club’s success in the eighties owed a lot to the inspirational leadership of Paul O’Gara. He was ably supported by central defender “Chips” Rafferty who turned down many offers to join Irish League Clubs. Others who figured prominently were goalkeeper Nigel Abernethy , Tommy Breslin, both of whom went on to Irish League Clubs. Gerry Heery, Paul Toner, Tony Caddell, Gerry Armstrong, Joe Beattie, Russell Millar, Peter Devlin, the McNicholl brothers, Neil and Michael, the Phillips brothers, Vinny Carr and Leslie Addis (a student then, but now a Presbyterian minister in Carrickfergus). In those days the club was very fortunate to have at their disposal two qualified physiotherapists, Geraldine Rooney and Fiona Duffy.
Perhaps the secret of the club’s success in the eighties was the tremendous spirit generated on and off the field by a host of influential people. When Archie Auld called a halt to his successful career he got behind the mic as DJ in the social club, while others such as Joe Beattie ensured that the staffing and organisation of club functions went smoothly.
The nineties could be described very much as “up and down”. The club was very much in a transition period but the preparation for structural change was largely inspired by Chairman Eric Lyons who always managed to assemble around him a very dedicated band of workers – none more so than George Hull and there was always Reggie Wilson to “throw a spanner in the ointment”. One very important development was that of our youth teams with Victor McCormick, John Murphy and John Caughey being very supportive. Indeed the first team squad at present has three players who came up though the ranks.
The first team had some fairly successful seasons in the Amateur League and manager Tom Kennedy, Dessie Douglas and Gerry Kerr made their mark. The club had some good players as well, notably Chico Mallon, Brian Hull, Tony Kerr, Gareth Davis and George Smith. George sustained a serious injury at Crewe Park in 1993 which largely finished his career. However he is still a very influential figure at the club and currently heads up our Vice Presidents.
Over the years there were other people who made a significant contribution to football, albeit in backroom roles and none more so than Hugh Jordan, Peter Toland and Joe Bell. Sadly they have all passed away, but their efforts will not be forgotten.