New Hanley Town chairman aims to make club “the biggest in the area”

Being appointed as the chairman of a football club is no small feat at the best of times, never mind in the middle of a pandemic.  

But Men Unite CEO Ron Mcllreavey did just that at Staffordshire club Hanley Town this summer – and has lofty ambitions for the North West Counties Football League (NWCFL) side.

Speaking to Sport in Staffs, Ron outlined his ultimate objective for the club.

“Within five years to become the biggest club in the area, both on and off the field,” he stated.

“I want to make Hanley Town accessible and welcoming for all to come and watch football.”

Ron was able to see his team in action for the first time last Saturday, albeit in unusual circumstances as the club gets to grips with the being Covid-19 compliant in behind-closed-doors non-league football.

He felt his first game, in which Hanley triumphed 2-1 over Leek CSOB in their first friendly game of the off-season, was “surreal” in many ways given the current climate that football clubs have to operate in at this time.  

Hanley Town ensured they were safely and well prepared for their first pre-season friendly

“It was a very strange and surreal day, having to make sure we were ‘Covid-compliant’ at every point – it probably took a bit of the shine off it,” he admitted. 

“I couldn’t really relax and enjoy the day as we had to make sure everyone was safeguarded. 

“It’s very strange times. Just like any business, every business needs an income.”

Ron stated that preparing for the new season had originally been “a little stop-start” because of not knowing when the 2020/21 NWCFL Premier Division season was due to commence.

However, he and the rest of the league, have been given more clarity on the matter after the NWCFL announced on Thursday (August 6) that it has set a provisional start date of Saturday, October 3.

Nevertheless, all too aware of the repercussions non-league clubs have had post-lockdown, Ron explained that he looks forward to when competitive football resumes once more – ideally with fans with the motif of bringing more supporters through the gates.

“I cannot wait to enjoy competitive football, however this cannot be done without fans or by jeopardising the safety of the players.  

“(There is) still a long way to go until we are back to normal, I sadly feel.”

Ron has been at charity Men Unite – who aim to tackle and deal with the real-world issues facing men’s mental health – from the very beginning, joining the charity a week after it was established by its founder.

In its first 16 months, the charity has come on leaps and bounds, making a real impact in the community.

After the announcement of a partnership with Hanley Town FC earlier in the year, the Staffordshire County Senior League has renamed all its divisions and cup competition after Men Unite upon agreeing a partnership with the charity.

Men Unite and Hanley Town also appeared on BBC Midlands Today

Ron explained further, saying: “This is an important and key partnership (with Hanley Town).

“We both wish to develop and, with the full backing of the local council, I feel this could be a ground breaking time in men’s mental health. 

“I (have) been there since April 17, 2019. It was founded by Craig Spillane on April 10, 2019.

“Men Unite FC play at Hanley Town now and it is great for the lads of Men Unite to play on such a great pitch. 

“We also held a seminar last month where 31 men came and talked regarding the daily challenges they face. 

“I see Hanley Town, Men Unite and Stoke-on-Trent City Council really making a breakthrough with men’s mental health in the area.”

Ron went on to say he believes the community can play a key part in getting behind the team, inviting club fans and followers to go and support the team when the turnstiles and gates can finally re-open once again.

“We have invested into the squad this year and we need the backing of the surrounding community to help us push on as we develop the club for all. 

“We are a great, welcoming, friendly atmosphere where everyone is treated as our friend.”

The charity has been doing wonders for men’s mental health in the community

To learn more about Men Unite and what support it offers, click here.

Click to follow Sport in Staffs for all our latest articles on: