Crusaders F.C.

Crusaders F.C.
Crusaders F.C. logo.png
Full name Crusaders Football Club
Nickname(s) "The Hatchetmen", "The Crues"
Founded 1898
Ground Seaview, Belfast
(Capacity: 3,054 [1])
Chairman Stephen Bell
Manager Stephen Baxter
League IFA Premiership
2010–11 2nd
Home colours
Away colours

Crusaders Football Club is a semi-professional, Northern Irish association football club, playing in the IFA Premiership. The club, founded in 1898, hails from Belfast and plays its home matches at Seaview. Club colours are red and black. The current manager is Stephen Baxter, appointed in 2005 following the departure of Alan Dornan. Crusaders played intermediate football until 1949, and during that time they were one of the top non-league teams in the country. The dramatic withdrawal of Belfast Celtic from the senior ranks in 1949 resulted in Crusaders being elected in their place in time for the start of the 1949/50 season.

The club's fierce rivals are Cliftonville. Matches between the two clubs are known as "The North Belfast Derby".

In 2009, club members voted to became a company limited by guarantee.




Crusaders Football Club was formed in the year 1898. The first meeting of the Club is believed to have been held at 182 North Queen Street, Belfast, the home of Thomas Palmer who, along with James McEldowney, John Hume and Thomas Wade, was a member of the original committee.

Many names were suggested for the club, including Rowan Star, Cultra United, Queen's Rovers, Mervue Wanderers and the Lilliputians. Thomas Wade felt that a name of more international significance should be adopted and he suggested 'Crusaders', after the medieval Christian knights.

Initially the club was only able to undertake friendly fixtures until it was admitted to one of the local junior leagues. Players were compelled to pay a match fee of two pence before they could take the field. It was strictly "no pay-no play".

The very first competitive game of which there is any existing record was on 10 December 1898. It came in the North Belfast Alliance against opponents named Bedford and reports state that, "after a splendid game Crusaders won by 5 to 2."


Crusaders went on to compete in the Dunville Alliance, Ormeau Junior Alliance, Alexandra Alliance, Woodvale Alliance and Irish Football Alliance until their election to the Irish Intermediate League in 1921. The Crues became one of the top junior clubs in the country, but in spite of winning an impressive collection of trophies, including the Intermediate League championship in 1925/26, all applications for entry to the senior Irish League were turned down. Such was the frustration that consideration was given to making application either to the Scottish Football League or to the League of Ireland.

The team played at a variety of venues before settling at Seaview in 1921. Earlier home venues included the Glen (which later became part of Alexandra Park), Cavehill Road, Simpson's Boiler Fields, Shore Road (opposite the Grove) and Rokeby Park. Seaview was officially opened on Saturday, September 3, 1921 by William Grant MP, prior to kick-off in an Intermediate League fixture against Cliftonville Olympic.

The Second World War meant that there was no football played by the Crues between April 1941 and September 1946.


Belfast Celtic's dramatic withdrawal from the senior ranks in 1949 resulted in Crusaders being elected in their place in time for the start of the 1949–50 season. Their first competitive game as a senior club was on August 20, 1949 and resulted in a 1–0 City Cup win at Portadown. The season, however, was tough going for the 'Hatchetmen', as they were known, and they had to apply for re-election after finishing in 11th place out of 12 clubs.

As has always been the case, however, Crusaders never lacked determination. Under the player-managership of Jackie Vernon they recovered to win their first senior trophy in the 1953–54 season by defeating Linfield 2–1 in the final of the Ulster Cup.

The 1950s were not easy in spite of the presence in the side of some excellent individuals and the end of the 1957–58 season saw another application for re-election.

The 1960s brought some much-needed success. The Crues won the Ulster Cup once more and the County Antrim Shield twice but these successes were overshadowed by two unexpected victories in the Irish Cup finals of 1967 and 1968 against the might of Glentoran and Linfield respectively. The Crues had arrived! So, too, did European competition as a consequence.

There were other significant happenings in the same decade. In July 1966 the original social club, dressing rooms and administration areas were destroyed by fire. They were replaced some four years later by the present bigger and better facilities.

There was more unprecedented success in the 1970s, with the Irish League championship trophy twice finding a home at Seaview, in 1973 and 1976.


The second championship triumph resulted in the never-to-be-forgotten European Cup-tie with Liverpool which saw the brave Cruemen fall to the might of Keegan, Toshack, et al. at Anfield by just 2–0. The home leg which followed was played before a crowd hanging from the rafters that would undoubtedly give the current health and safety legislators a heart attack.

Although performances in the 1980s were steady, they certainly were not spectacular and the club paid the penalty for not building on earlier successes. Manager Jackie Hutton had no money with which to buy players but he did the club a great service when he somehow completed the deal which brought Roy Walker to Seaview. Hutton was quick to recognise the leadership qualities in Walker and saw him as his potential successor.

At the same time, local businessman Harry Corry, pumped some desperately needed sponsorship money into the club. As the revival began, southern businessman Tony O'Connell also became involved. It was a partnership that was to produce the most successful spell in the club's history.

Walker took over as player-manager in September 1989, two years after his arrival as a player. One of his first tasks was to apply for re-election as the Crues finished 13th out of 14 clubs.

Walker's sides – he dubbed them "the team with no boots" – went on to win nearly everything in sight whilst wealthier and bigger-supported clubs could only watch and wonder.

There were two further championship titles won (1995 and 1997) whilst Crusaders also finished runners-up in 1993 and 1996. Other trophies won were the County Antrim Shield (1992), Ulster Cup (1993) and Gold Cup (1996).

In turn, this meant more expeditions into Europe as the Crues took on teams from Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania and Georgia within a five-year span.

In addition to the first team and the reserves, teams at under-16 and under-18 level were introduced as the club looked to nurture and develop local talent in the area.

Roy Walker resigned as manager in July 1998, just prior to the club's centenary dinner celebrations at Belfast City Hall.

Subsequently a lack of funds saw the Seaview fortunes decline, with Dublin-based managers Aaron Callaghan and Martin Murray both resigning after one year apiece in charge.


Former player Gary McCartney took over the managerial reins in July 2000. The team retained Premier Division status after a nail-biting play-off success over Lisburn Distillery in May 2001 but McCartney resigned just over twelve months later because of the limited budget at his disposal.

Crusaders has always drawn its support from the working class people of north Belfast. From these members it elects its committee and its particular ethos. However, the club's serious financial plight became very apparent in the early 2000s and in 2002 consideration was given to changing the structure from one of a membership-based organisation to that of a public limited company. In May 2002, members voted at the AGM against such a change.

Popular veteran defender Alan Dornan was appointed as Gary McCartney's successor at the end of June 2002 and the side retained Premier Division status that season under his guidance, although the squad was very inexperienced and often included six or seven teenagers. The emphasis on youth continued in 2003–04 as the Crues achieved a mid-table finish, an improvement compared to preceding seasons.

Dornan's next season in charge was not as successful. He was sacked just after mid-way through the season, as the Crues lay at the bottom of the table, despite having guided the team to the County Antrim Shield final (although ultimately they lost in the final to Linfield). Former striker and fans' favourite Stephen 'Stanley' Baxter was appointed as manager but, despite an improvement in results, he could not keep the club in the Premier League, with the Crues losing out to Glenavon in a relegation play-off. The relegation was the first time Crusaders had ever been relegated from any league, and meant an end to 56 consecutive seasons of senior football.


Happily though, they bounced back the following year under Baxter by winning the IFA Intermediate League, the Intermediate League Cup, and Steel & Sons Cup. After their first season back in the top flight after promotion, the Hatchetmen finished in a very creditable 6th place, after briefly topping the table at the beginning of the season.

2009–10 UEFA Europa League qualifying match between FK Rabotnički and Crusaders F.C. at Philip II Arena in Skopje

In the 2007–2008 season, the Crues finished in 7th position in the League after a somewhat inconsistent start to the season. They appeared in two finals, losing both the County Antrim Shield, 2–1 to Glentoran, and the Irish League Cup, 3–2 to Linfield.

During 2008–09, they established themselves as the 'third force' in the Irish League, and finished in the top three of the League for the first time in 10 years. The club also won their first Irish Cup final since 1968, thanks to a Mark Dickson goal, in a 1–0 victory over Cliftonville at Windsor Park on 9 May 2009.

As a result Crusaders entered Europe for the first time in 12 years and faced Macedonian side FK Rabotnicki at Mourneview Park Lurgan in the Europa League second qualifying round. The game was drawn 1–1 with David Rainey scoring on the 89th minute.[2] On 23 July 2009 in their second leg encounter with FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia they lost the game 4–2 and exited the competition 5–3 on aggregate.[3]

In a move endorsed by UEFA President Michel Platini, the club has also recently changed from a grass pitch to a 4G-synthetic pitch. The artificial football turf pitch was manufactured by ACT Global Sports. They played their first game on the new pitch against Glentoran on 14 November 2009.[4] This move has turned out to be fruitful for the club, with matches at Seaview being the only games in Northern Ireland to survive the weather over the Christmas period.[5] The same season the side won their second major trophy in a year, picking up the County Antrim Shield after a 3–2 extra time victory over Linfield.[6]

In the 2010/11 season Crusaders challenged Linfield for the league title, after being 13 points behind at one stage. They ended up as runners up. The Crues also reached final of the Irish Cup where they played Linfield at Windsor Park. Crusaders went 1–0 up through Declan Caddell, but goals from Peter Thompson and Mark McAllister condemned the Crues to defeat.[7]

The Crues then entered the 2011-12 UEFA Europa League and received their biggest draw since the famous game against Liverpool 35 years before, as the side drew Premier League team Fulham in the second qualifying round. In the home tie the side put up a brave fight, with new signing Timmy Adamson scoring an equalising goal and striking the bar with the score poised at 1-1, before eventually succumbing 1-3.[8][9] In the second leg, the Premier League side proved too strong for the Hatchetmen, as they dominated the game and won 4-0.[10][11] At the same time, Seaview underwent extensive renovation, with two new stands and new seating installed, making the ground all-seater and one of the most modern sports stadiums in Northern Ireland.[12]



  • Irish League:
  • Irish Cup:
    • Winners (3): 1966–67, 1967–68, 2008–09
    • Runners-up (2): 1979-80, 2010-11
  • Irish League Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1996–97
    • Runners-up (3): 1986-87, 1995-96, 2007-08
  • County Antrim Shield:
    • Winners (6): 1959–60, 1964–65, 1968–69, 1973–74, 1991–92, 2009–10
    • Runners-up (14): 1954-55, 1966-67, 1970-71, 1971-72, 1977-78, 1978-79, 1979-80, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1997-98, 2004-05, 2007-08
  • Gold Cup:
    • Winners (2): 1985–86, 1995–96
    • Runners-up (3): 1964-65, 1966-67, 1994-95
  • Ulster Cup:
    • Winners (3): 1953–54, 1963–64, 1993–94
    • Runners-up (7): 1951-52, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1972-73, 1978-79, 1991-92, 1996-97
  • Carlsberg Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1973–74
  • Stena Line Trophy:
    • Winners (1): 1996–97
  • Blaxnit Cup:
    • Runners-up (1): 1967-68


  • IFA Intermediate League (1):
    • Winners (1): 2005–06
  • Irish League B Division Section 2 (1):
    • Winners (1) 1996–97†
  • Irish Intermediate Cup:
    • Winners (3): 1926–27, 1938–39, 1939–40
  • IFA Intermediate League Cup:
    • Winners (1): 2005–06
  • Steel & Sons Cup:
    • Winners (8): 1922–23, 1926–27, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1933–34, 1936–37, 1947–48, 2005–06
  • George Wilson Cup:
    • Winners (2): 1952–53†, 2006–07†
  • Irish Intermediate League:
    • Winners (9): 1922–23, 1925–26, 1926–27, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1932–33, 1937–38, 1938–39, 1948–49
  • McElroy Cup:
    • Winners (3): 1929–30, 1931–32, 1947–48
  • Irish Football Alliance:
    • Winners (3): 1915–16, 1916–17, 1917–18
  • Clement Lyttle Trophy:
    • Winners (3): 1915–16, 1917–18, 1924–25
  • Empire Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1905–06
  • Polland Cup:
    • Winners (1): 1903–04

† Won by reserve team

European record

  • R1 = first round
  • PR = preliminary round
  • Q = qualifying round
Season Competition Round Club Scores Aggregate
1967–68 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup R1 Spain Valencia 0-4, 2-4 2-8
1968–69 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup R1 Sweden IFK Norrköping 2-2, 1-4 3-6
1973–74 UEFA European Cup R1 Romania Dinamo Bucharest 0-1, 0-11 0-12
1976–77 UEFA European Cup R1 England Liverpool 0-2, 0-5 0-7
1980–81 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup R1 Wales Newport County 0-4, 0-0 0-4
1993–94 UEFA Cup R1 Switzerland Servette 0-0, 0-4 0-4
1995–96 UEFA Cup PR Denmark Silkeborg IF 1-2, 0-4 1-6
1996–97 UEFA Cup PR Lithuania Zalgiris Vilnius 0-2, 2-1 2-3
1997–98 UEFA Champions League Q1 Georgia (country) Dinamo Tbilisi 1-3, 1-5 2-8
2009–10 UEFA Europa League Q2 Republic of Macedonia Rabotnički 1-1, 2-4 3-5
2011–12 UEFA Europa League Q2 England Fulham 1-3, 0-4 1-7

Current squad

As of 8 June 2011[13] Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
GK Niall Murphy
Northern Ireland GK Sean O'Neill
Northern Ireland DF Colin Coates (Captain)
DF David Gibson
DF Paul Leeman
DF Gareth McKeown
DF David Magowan
DF Stephen McBride
MF Declan Caddell
Northern Ireland MF Stuart Dallas
No. Position Player
MF Willie Faulkner
MF Ciaran Gargan
MF Ryan McCann
MF David McMaster
MF Chris Morrow
MF Aidan Watson
FW Timmy Adamson
FW Michael Halliday
Northern Ireland FW Jordan Owens
FW David Rainey

Current management

  • Assistant Manager: Jeff Spiers
  • First Team Coach: Charlie Murphy
  • Goalkeeping Coach: Roy McDonald
  • Reserve Manager: Paul Foy

Backroom staff

  • President: John Mairs
  • Chairman: Stephen Bell
  • Vice-Chairman: Ronnie Miller
  • Secretary: Harry Davison
  • Treasurer: Robert White
  • Commercial Manager: Norman Coleman
  • Stadium Manager: Joe Moore
  • Head Steward: Brian Moore
  • Club Chaplain: Reverend Ken White
  • Supporters Laison: Davy Hamilton
  • Catering: The Ranch
  • Kit Manager: Leslie McKittrick
  • Programme Editor: Alistair Montgomery
  • Shop Manager: Angela McKibbin
  • Company Secretary: Alan Briers
  • Director: Michael long
  • Director: John Alexander

Notable former players


Statistics apply to competitive league matches only. As of 27 September 2011
Name Nationality From To Matches Won Drawn Lost Win % Notes
Jackie Vernon Northern Ireland 01952-07 July 1952 19?? (*)
Sammy McCrory Northern Ireland 01962-07 July 1962 196? (*)
Ted Smyth Northern Ireland 196? 01967-07 July 1967
Jimmy Todd Northern Ireland 01967-07 July 1967 01972-07 July 1972 &10000000000000110000000110 &1000000000000004200000042 &1000000000000002700000027 &1000000000000004100000041 &1000000000000003817999938.18
Billy Johnston Northern Ireland 01972-07 July 1972 01979-07 July 1979 &10000000000000154000000154 &1000000000000007500000075 &1000000000000003300000033 &1000000000000004600000046 &1000000000000004870000048.70
Ian Russell Northern Ireland 01979-07 July 1979 01983-07 July 1983 &1000000000000008800000088 &1000000000000004200000042 &1000000000000001500000015 &1000000000000003100000031 &1000000000000004772999947.73
Tommy Jackson Northern Ireland 01983-07 July 1983 01986-09 September 1986 &1000000000000007800000078 &1000000000000003300000033 &1000000000000002000000020 &1000000000000002500000025 &1000000000000004231000042.31
Jackie Hutton Scotland 01986-09 September 1986 01989-09 September 1989 &1000000000000007800000078 &1000000000000002100000021 &1000000000000001600000016 &1000000000000004100000041 &1000000000000002692000026.92
Roy Walker Northern Ireland 01989-09 September 1989 01998-05-12 12 May 1998 &10000000000000268000000268 &10000000000000127000000127 &1000000000000006800000068 &1000000000000007300000073 &1000000000000004739000047.39 (*)
Aaron Callaghan Ireland 01998-05-18 18 May 1998 01999-06-04 4 June 1999 &1000000000000003600000036 &1000000000000001800000018 &100000000000000080000008 &1000000000000001000000010 &1000000000000005000000050.00 (*)
Martin Murray Ireland 01999-06-27 27 June 1999 02000-05-14 14 May 2000 &1000000000000003600000036 &100000000000000090000009 &1000000000000001300000013 &1000000000000001400000014 &1000000000000002500000025.00
Gary McCartney Ireland 02000-06-23 23 June 2000 02002-06-23 23 June 2002 &1000000000000007200000072 &1000000000000001700000017 &1000000000000001800000018 &1000000000000003700000037 &1000000000000002360999923.61
Alan Dornan Northern Ireland 02002-07-01 1 July 2002 02005-01-31 31 January 2005 &1000000000000008700000087 &1000000000000002100000021 &1000000000000002200000022 &1000000000000004400000044 &1000000000000002414000024.14 (*)
Roy Bennett Northern Ireland 02005-01-31 31 January 2005 02005-02-22 22 February 2005 &100000000000000020000002 &100000000000000000000000 &100000000000000010000001 &100000000000000010000001 &100000000000000000000000 (**)
Stephen Baxter Northern Ireland 02005-02-22 22 February 2005 present &10000000000000216000000216 &10000000000000106000000106 &1000000000000004600000046 &1000000000000006400000064 &1000000000000004907000049.07
  • (*) – spell as player-manager
  • (**) – caretaker manager

Local connections

Seaview Primary School have always had a connection with the club through fundraisers/charity events, as well as school fetes.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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