ONE OF OUR OWN - RODNEY BROWN - CRUSADERS FC
Rodney Brown comes from a footballing family in the twin villages of Kells and Connor, themselves a hotbed of football in Mid Antrim renowned for producing some excellent footballers through the years.
Rodney had not even reached five years of age when he played for the local Kells and Connor team for Sarah Woods in the newly formed Ballymena Invitational Mini Soccer League and it wasn't long before he raised a few eyebrows scoring regularly against boys a lot older than himself. The little red haired striker excelled in this league and went on to become the 1st player to play in every age group of the league from P1 class to P7 inclusive.
Rodney would say himself that he 'loved it' playing in this league and after a couple of seasons for Kells and Connor joined Carniny Youth where he played up through the early youth team years under former Irish League player Lindsay Curry, Stevie Armstrong, Stevie Barr and Robin Park. It was with Carniny that he got his first taste of youth tournament football when he played for the under 12 age group at the Foyle Cup up in the North West. ' What a week it was!' said Rodney as he remembered staying in the classic Beechill Country House Hotel which he described as' fantastic' and recalls what an especially good team it was playing alongside the likes of Ryan Curry, Jake Armstrong, Dean Graham, Lloyd White and Zach Barr complimented by Lee Williamson, Craig Todd and Paddy McNair ( currently of Middlesboro and N. Ireland ) who were with Ballyclare Colts but guested at the Foyle Cup for Carniny.
This team did well at the tournament and won their group before going out in the knock out stages of the main competition to Heart of Midlothian ( Hearts ) of Scotland. In the subsequent subsidiary competition Carniny got to the final but ran out of steam losing the game to the famous Montpellier of France.
Up through the years of youth football at Carniny he regularly ended up as leading goal scorer and when he did eventually move on he spent a season at Ballymena United before joining Linfield where his career took off spending five seasons and breaking into the 1st team at Windsor Park.
He then joined the 'Bannsiders' at Coleraine where he continued to impress for 3 seasons but it was when he joined Crusaders that he showed how good a player he really was winning the Irish League in his first season and shortly adding the Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield to his list of honours! Director of football at the Crues and former Carniny coach, Brian Glover says he can only speak highly of Rodney describing him as someone loved by the Shore Road fans and respected by his peers. Brian says, ' Rodney can play anywhere although he is currently comfortable in defence.' All at Carniny are happy to have played a small part in his rise in football circles and glad to call him, ' one of our own.'