Billy Thompson is an original ’96er and former Crew academy coach who still lives in Columbus to this day. He is currently the Boys’ Technical Director at Ohio Premier.
Fun fact that I just thought to look up as I typed this…Thompson is one of only two players to start the inaugural game on April 13, 1996, and the first game at Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999. The other is Mike Clark. (The other two players to appear in both games are Brian Maisonneuve and Todd Yeagley, who both came on as subs in the 1996 game and started the 1999 game.)
Anyway, the point is that Billy Thompson has been a part of many firsts in those early days, and now we’ve recently talked about the most recent “first” in club history– the historic saving of the Crew. Here’s what he had to say…
On the Crew being 100% officially saved after 15 months of turmoil, the last three of which featured incremental progress reports on their all-but-certain saving:
It was great. We’ve been hearing it for a while, but was great to hear it’s official with the stamp of approval from everybody. That’s number one. And number two, I don’t think it could have been a better group they could put together from ownership to management.
On what the fans need to know about Dr. Pete as he is now part of the ownership group with the Haslam family:
He’s really energetic and very enthusiastic about the franchise, the team, the players, the fans, and he always has been. Whether it’s taking care of a Wil Trapp or Higuain injury, or taking care of a youth player or coach that’s involved, he’s just always had an incredible amount of passion to support the people that are part of the Crew. That was as the team doc, but now as an owner, he still seems to have that same amount of energy, whether it is for one fan or his partners in ownership. It’s really incredible.
My wife, actually, the morning of the ownership press conference, was in his office seeing him for a shoulder injury on short notice. I’m not kidding. It’s been that way since 1996 to wearing that scarf at the press conference as an owner. It’s not surprising, but from the top to the bottom, he’ll make sure what he does is correct for the fans and the franchise, just like he’s done since 1996. I think that part of it is really exciting. And like I said, that whole team that they’ve put together, I don’t think it could have gone any better in terms of bringing people back to Ohio that started here and had long successful journeys to get back here. I don’t think it could have worked out any better.
On the family atmosphere that Dr. Pete wants to restore to the organization:
That part is always nice for any player that lives in town or comes into town. You want to feel a part of the franchise. Pete certainly has always made that happen and still does. He sent me a text message after seeing my wife the morning of the press conference. He goes out of his way to make sure people feel a part of it, which is really quite amazing.
On the new downtown stadium and new training facility and sports park that will incorporate historic MAPFRE Stadium:
Not to be cliché, but you couldn’t craft it any better in terms of getting a new top-level facility and then providing something for the city that we didn’t have. You couldn’t have written it out last year that if we saved the Crew, these are the boxes we want to check, and quite honestly, if you looked back and said “If you don’t leave one box off, what would it look like?”— we didn’t leave one box unchecked. It’s fantastic and very exciting. It’s surprising, but it’s not. Everybody came together and said let’s make the push and get it done, and they did.
On what he would say about the fans for their successful #SaveTheCrew movement:
Pete and the owners stepped up to make it happen, but they wouldn’t have taken that step or that risk if the people and the #SaveTheCrew movement weren’t behind it like they were. That’s clear. That’s what motivated the owners to come together and make it happen when they recognized the support that was here. Maybe it wasn’t recognized up until then, so that’s where it started and allowed the rest of the people to step up and put the other pieces in place. That’s fantastic because to be the first franchise in 1996 and all of the other firsts that we’ve had, we’re back on that track.
From how close it came to not happening, the motivation of the fanbase to put in their best effort, and then to have the group with people like Pete and everybody else come together, it sounds almost cliché that it’s a perfect storm and couldn’t be better, but it’s true. And you can feel it. I know I can as a former player, youth coach, and as a fan. Everybody truly feels that, from the longtime fans to the hopefully new fans that I’m sure will be coming out.
From the Legends Game and the whole movement, it has brought that alumni group together. We’ve always been close, but I think maybe a couple different generations that weren’t as connected to each find that we now are. The whole movement has strengthened the group.
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