Thursday, 23 May 2024

Crusaders F.C. History – All about the Club

Crusaders Football Club, established in 1898, is a premier football institution based in north Belfast, Northern Ireland. Competing in the Irish Premiership, the club has solidified its position as a formidable force in Northern Irish football. Let’s explore Crusaders F.C. history, including all the bits and details that are worth mentioning.

A Detailed Account of Crusaders F.C. History

The Beginning of the Club

Established in 1898, the origins of Crusaders Football Club remain shrouded in mystery. The exact date of its formation is not definitively known. Historical accounts suggest that the inaugural gathering of the club took place at 182 North Queen Street in Belfast. This residence belonged to Thomas Palmer, a key figure in the club’s founding, along with fellow pioneering members. Members like James McEldowney, John Hume, and Thomas Wade collectively formed the core committee.

The process of naming the club saw a plethora of suggestions being proposed. Many suggestions drew inspiration from the local streets of Belfast. Names such as ‘Rowan Star,’ ‘Cultra United,’ ‘Mervue Wanderers,’ and ‘Moyola’ were thrown into the ring. Other potential names included ‘Queen’s Rovers’ and the whimsical ‘Lilliputians.’ However, Thomas Palmer envisioned a name with a broader historical resonance. He put forth “Crusaders,” a nod to the medieval Christian warriors, as the ideal title for the club.

Proving Their Skills

Crusaders showcased their superiority in the Irish Intermediate League by clinching the title consecutively from 1916 to 1918. This illustrious period paved the way for their eventual induction into the esteemed Irish Intermediate League in 1921. The Crusaders swiftly emerged as one of the dominant intermediate football forces in the country. Their prowess on the field led them to clinch a remarkable assortment of accolades.

Most notably in Crusaders F.C. history, they secured the Intermediate League championship title an astounding six times within a decade, spanning from 1923 to 1933. Their excellence wasn’t just limited to the league. They also left a mark in the esteemed junior cup competition, the Steel & Sons Cup. The Crusaders lifted this trophy seven times during their tenure as a junior side. Interestingly, many years later, in 2005, after their demotion to intermediate football, the first team reclaimed this cup, adding another feather to their cap.

To the Irish Top League

Despite such stellar performances, the Crusaders faced continuous rejection in their attempts to gain entry into the senior Irish League. The mounting frustration led to discussions within the club about potentially applying for membership in either the Scottish Football League or the League of Ireland. However, these plans were derailed by the onset of the Second World War.

The war resulted in a football hiatus for the Crues from April 1941 to September 1945. Following the end of the war, the Crusaders resumed their football journey. They competed once again in the Intermediate League, starting with the 1945-46 season. In the 1948-49 season, Crusaders showcased their superiority by winning the Intermediate League, accumulating a record-breaking points tally. This achievement, combined with the unexpected exit of Belfast Celtic from the top tier in 1949, paved the way for the Crusaders’ much-awaited elevation to the senior Irish League for the 1949-50 season.

Marking their debut in the senior circuit, they played against Portadown on 20 August 1949. They sealed a 1-0 victory in the City Cup. This momentous match saw ex-Belfast Celtic forward Vincent Morrison, a summer acquisition, etch his name in history by scoring the club’s inaugural goal in the senior league. Morrison’s prowess was evident throughout the season. He finished as the club’s leading scorer, netting 11 goals across all contests.

The Golden Era of Crusaders

The season posed numerous challenges for the Crusaders. They finished 11th in a 12-club league, prompting a re-election application. Resilience has always been a hallmark of Crusaders. Their undying spirit was evident when they reached their first senior final, the Festival of Britain Cup final, on 17 May 1952. Despite a 0-3 loss to Ballymena United, their resolve remained unshaken.

With Jackie Vernon at the helm as player-manager, the Crusaders tasted their first senior silverware in the 1953-54 season, defeating Linfield 2-1 in the Ulster Cup final. While the 1950s presented numerous hurdles, the squad boasted exceptional talent. However, the end of the 1957-58 season saw the club once again applying for re-election.

The 1960s indicated a golden era in Crusaders F.C. history, marked by numerous triumphs. On 17 May 1960, they clinched their first County Antrim Shield, a feat they would replicate in 1965. With the strategic guidance of coach Jimmy Murdough, the Crusaders also secured another Ulster Cup title on 1 October 1963.

These achievements were soon eclipsed by two surprising victories in the coveted Irish Cup finals of 1967 and 1968, where they outplayed giants of the game, Glentoran and Linfield.

Almost the Champions of Ireland

This series of victories propelled the Crusaders onto the European stage, where they faced the formidable Valencia CF in August 1967. Further, in 1968, the Crusaders narrowly missed out on the prestigious Blaxnit Cup title and the honor of becoming champions of all of Ireland. They were edged out 3-4 on aggregate by Shamrock Rovers.

The 1960s was not only a period of team success but also saw the emergence of legendary individual talents within the Crusaders’ ranks. Names like Albert Campbell, Danny Trainor, Joe Meldrum, and notably Danny Hale, left indelible marks on Crusaders F.C. history. Danny Hale’s goal-scoring prowess was particularly exceptional, with a jaw-dropping tally of 143 goals over a mere four seasons.

Departure of the Legendary Roy Walker

Recognizing the importance of nurturing budding talent, the club proactively introduced under-16 and under-18 squads, marking a strategic move towards grooming local talent for future prospects. However, in an unexpected turn of events, Roy Walker, the driving force behind much of the club’s success, abruptly resigned in May 1998. This came just on the brink of the club’s centenary dinner celebrations at Belfast City Hall.

At the time of his resignation, Walker held the record as the club’s longest-serving manager, a title he retained until Stephen Baxter surpassed it in October 2013.