THE man widely known as ‘Mr Crewe United’, Tom McKenna has stepped down as chairman at the club’s recent Annual General Meeting.
Tom is one of Crewe’s ‘Founding Fathers’, at the tender age of 19, along with his late brother Gerard.
Who was to foresee the story of progress, success and friendships that can been traced over the last 60 years?
Crewe United took their first steps on a Parks pitch at Woodvale Park in Belfast and then on to Barbour Playing Fields in Lisburn before a fateful meeting with the late Joe Shephard began the Crewe story at Crewe Park.
As a player, Tom won countless league and cup medals with the club and when the boots were hung up, they were replaced by the manager’s coat.
His managerial period marked the most successful time on the pitch for the club, as the coveted Junior Cup was lifted as well as successive Amateur League titles which culminated in the club’s promotion from Junior to Intermediate football in the early 1980s.
As he moved upstairs after management, Tom’s foresight was as strong as ever with floodlights installed at Crewe Park in 1989; the old clubhouse demolished in 1991 and stands and terracing built to make the ground one of the best in the country.
Crewe Park today is testimony to his dedication, commitment and love of the club.
However perhaps the proudest aspect of the club over the years has been how people from all backgrounds and beliefs were, and are, welcomed through the Crewe gates.
Even in the darkest days of the Troubles, Crewe Park was a safe place to be for anyone and everyone. That was an ethos cultivated by him.
Down through the years, there have been so many cross community initiatives but the greatest of all was the Torch of Hope project subsequent to the Warrington bomb. The lasting friendships and success of that initiative will never be forgotten.
Tom also managed to bring some top teams and players to Crewe Park. Brentford, Luton Town, George Best, Jock Stein, Jan Molby, Kenny Samson, Alan Kennedy to name but a few have visited Glenavy all because Tom always pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved, even by a ‘small’ club.
Crewe United continues to thrive and prosper today and Tom can only be bursting with pride at what he has built on and off the pitch at Crewe. The club is forever grateful for his efforts and would acknowledge the support from his wife Nora which helped him achieve so much down through the years.
Happily, Tom will still be at Crewe, remaining on the main Committee and his experience will be invaluable to the club. Crewe would like to thank Tom for everything he has done for the club,
Taking up the reigns as chairman is Tom’s son, Thomas, who has been steeped in the Crewe traditions, having also played and managed at the club.
“It is a very proud moment for me to become chairman of the club,” said Thomas.
“It is important to remember the values that have made this club so progressive and unique on and off the pitch and take these forward into the future.
“Words aren’t enough to describe the work of my dad and if I can achieve a fraction of that then that will represent success.
“I have been very fortunate to grow up amongst unbelievable people at the club, had fantastic life experiences and can only hope to make dad and everyone at the club and further afield proud of what we achieve in years to come.
“I’m humbled by the past and equally excited about our future.”
Speaking of the current Committee he added: “The work that goes on behind the scenes is unbelievable. We have people who work so hard to keep the fantastic facilities the way they are and they are the ones that make the club a success.”
There was also the appointment of a new vice-chair as Peter Moorhead who has been head of the Youth set-up comes in. Peter has been a great asset to the club since he joined a few years ago and his enthusiasm for the club is there for all to see.
“”Crewe is a massive club and has the potential to achieve even greater things in the future,” said Peter.
“We are here to work hard and continue the upward journey of the club. It is very special to be appointed as vice-chair.”
It is also fitting that Peter moves into a senior role nearly a year on from the passing of his uncle, George Smith, who was such a positive influence and great supporter of Crewe.
It is always great to see former players return to the club. For instance, Scott Bingham, former Crewe captain, joins the Committee ranks as football secretary and will no doubt make a massive contribution to the club in the years ahead.
Finally United would like to welcome Gary Waterworth in his new role as Chief Executive. Gary has been with the club for several years after hanging up his whistle as referee in the Mid Ulster League. A man with great experience and eye for detail he will no doubt make the role his own.
The club wishes everyone well in their new positions and thanks everyone on the Committee who give of their time to make Crewe Park and the club simply special to be part of.