Treble whammy for Anderson
David Holmes (Total Cricket)
When I met the NCU’s latest sponsor last Friday evening he was in upbeat mood. We were at Belmont watching the final of the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup and it was a much as I could do to make him turn away from the field of play briefly as the game was reaching a climax to get a photograph taken.
You see not only is the company’s managing director Tommy Anderson a sponsor to the NCU he is also a club sponsor at Waringstown and their President to boot; so you might argue that Friday night was a bit of a treble whammy for him.
If the NCU were looking for the ideal way to keep a new sponsor happy they could not have written the script much better. Waringstown defeated Instonians by 6 wickets and Anderson was able to hand over the trophy to club captain Kyle McCallan; smiles all round!
I asked him to talk about his own sporting background and he told me that wouldn’t take long. However as the conversation developed, I could not help but surmise that someone who could speak about playing football against George Best; had in my opinion a level of sporting kudos.
Anderson was born in Glasgow but at the age of four his family moved to Belfast at the top of the Ormeau Road. He went to school in Park Parade and readily admitted that he did not have academic qualifications but rather had studied at the University of Life.
Tommy is the epitome of a self made man and he talks with an obvious passion about his background and the company which he bought out of receivership in 1976 during the economic recession:
“I started off working at 16 in the purchasing department in Harland and Wolff and one of the first people to take me under his wing was James Harrison, Roy’s father. My own father had recently died and indeed he treated me like another son. By 1969 I was the steel buyer for the company but I decided I needed another challenge.
I moved to the company as was at the start of 1972 and became involved in the sales side, as I have always thought purchasing and selling went hand in hand. By the time the company went into receivership I was 29, the sales director and spending a lot of time in Dublin, so when the bank called in our overdraft I figured I could take the business on but I needed a backer.
We were lucky enough to find one who took a stake in return for 20% equity and by 1983 I was able to buy that out. For me the business is run on a teamwork ethic and all our employees no matter what their role are ambassadors for the company and we all pull together.”
Very much like any successful team in sports I thought, so I asked him about the sporting side:
“When I was younger I wanted to be a footballer, I played for South Belfast Scouts in the youth league. One of the top sides was Cregagh Boys, so that is where I came up against the young willo the wisp that was George Best. We had decent players in our side too, Sammy Nelson was our outside left and Eric Bowyer the former Linfield captain and manager played as well.
In the youth league I was an outfield player, wing half, centre half you name it but I finished up as a goalkeeper. Jim Emery the Everton scout set up a trial for me at Torquay United, I remember flying into Exeter Airport; I say airport it was more a grass track.
Frank O’Farrell was the manager then and I went over for a month and was offered terms, but did not stay, to be honest I was homesick. I came back and signed for Glenavon; we won the mid-Ulster Cup twice, then on to Distillery and finished up in the amateur leagues.”
He was equally forth-coming about his involvement with Distillery in later years:
“The club asked me to put up a signage board at New Grosvenor in the 1990’s, then to become club sponsor and to go onto the board, which I did. Billy Hamilton was manager then, but I only lasted about 4 months before I resigned.
Things changed and in 2000 I was asked back on the board again, this time as Chairman. I made it clear that I only saw this role as three years as I believed others should have a chance to serve in the role as well, then I stepped down to vice-chairman.
In 2009 the then Chairman decided to sack the manager Paul Kirk, basically the board decided by 5-1 that he should go, I was the one and I also resigned.”
Anderson is equally clear that there will not be a third spell at Distillery. So I asked him about cricket:
“Well I played a bit for Harland & Wolff in the summer league so, when I went to Glenavon it was suggested that as I was there during the winter I may as well be at The Lawn during the summer. Waringstown had an unbelievable team then so there was no chance of getting on the firsts.
I was a bit of an all rounder and was more than happy on the seconds.”
So how did the Waringstown Presidency come about?
“The previous President Eddie McMullan died suddenly and Roy Harrison asked me would I do it. I explained that I was busy and asked what the level of commitment was, for how long and what the club expected from me.
Roy put it simply that I would have to speak at a few functions, attend the odd committee meeting and that it would last until they got tired of me or I got tired of them, that was in 2000.”
Anderson is also involved in another sporting venture with two partners, the rejuvenation of the greyhound track at Drumbo Park.
I asked him finally about the new cricket sponsorship and how that came about:
“I know Gordon Scott from my youth footballing days with a team called Boychester United and I also knew Richard Johnson from the Linfield boardroom, so when they approached me I was willing to listen.
I was already sponsoring Waringstown but this is a three year deal I have agreed with the Union. I have had tremendous enjoyment out of the game and I will get as much enjoyment putting something back into it. For me this is another journey, just like the experience at Distillery.”
I also happened to find out that Tommy has an 11 year old grandson who will be starting Inst. in September, but I don’t think there is any danger of mixed loyalties. I understand that Roy Harrison has already guaranteed one on one coaching at The Lawn this summer!