North Texas lost one of its soccer pioneers on Wednesday when Mike Renshaw died at the age of 72.
Born and raised in the Manchester area of England, Renshaw at 19 answered a help-wanted ad for proficient soccer players to become members of the neophyte Dallas Tornado professional soccer club.
That was in 1968, the beginning of Renshaw’s half-century soccer association in Dallas helping the sport grow as a player, coach, instructor and commentator.
In nine seasons and 127 matches for the Tornado, he scored 20 goals, including the clincher over Atlanta for the 1971 North American Soccer League title.
In 1975, Renshaw played in Pele’s debut for the New York Cosmos, a nationally-televised match that ended 2-2.
When the NASL debuted an indoor tournament, Renshaw was named MVP after scoring two goals with an assist in a victory over Rochester in the final.
“Mike never felt sorry for himself, but he had reason to,” said Norm Hitzges, former broadcaster for Tornado games and later a partner with Renshaw in the booth. “When he retired in 1976, he was only 28, but he had bad knees. He was a good player, a nice player that could have had three to five more years.”
Instead, Renshaw became a Tornado assistant coach for three seasons and finally head coach for the team’s final campaign in 1981.
In one rather bizarre chapter of his life, Renshaw played a half-dozen matches with the United States Men’s National Team in 1973 although he was ineligible because he was not a citizen of the U.S. Renshaw, a winger, came on as a substitute in a 4-0 loss to Bermuda and started in another 4-0 loss to Poland. He also played for the USMNT against four under-23 national teams.
Team officials apparently believed that since Renshaw had lived in Dallas for more than five years, he had become a citizen.
Years later, Renshaw admitted he knew he was ineligible and explained it this way: “I just figured, what the hell, I guess they know what they are doing. I loved playing for the USA.”
Hitzges and Renshaw formed the announcing team for the Dallas Sidekicks of the Major Indoor Soccer League with Renshaw providing, at times, pointed color commentary.
“I loved working with Mike,” Hitzges said. “He was really honest in his criticism of the players. The players knew his background and didn’t mind the harshness at all. Mike understood the game.”
Perhaps Renshaw’s lasting contribution will prove to be his nine-year coaching stint at Episcopal School of Dallas. Under his guidance, the girls’ soccer program that had gone 14 years without a Southwest Preparatory Conference title reeled off four in succession from 2014-17.
In a recent story in the school’s Eagle Edition newspaper, some former players conveyed Renshaw’s impact. They relished his “have fun but take no nonsense” attitude.
For Gillian Campbell, a 2018 graduate, the memories that have stayed with her are not as much the wins but the life lessons Renshaw taught.
Ellis Miller, a 2017 grad, fondly recalled that after ESD won the first of its four titles, their coach played a recording of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” on the bus ride back to the school, singing along at the top of his lungs.
In 2014 with a lineup loaded with freshmen, former players remember Renshaw shocked them by stating the team could become SPC champion. The players say his confidence set the tone not only for that season, but the years of success that followed.
After his prediction proved to be accurate, Renshaw said the players learned to trust his judgment.
The power outage from last week’s storm might have played a role in Renshaw’s death. He suffered from a lung disease and when power went out, he lost the use of his oxygen machine.
Friends remember Renshaw’s quick wit and how much they enjoyed being in his company.
Said Hitzges: “Mike will be missed. Especially in times like these, the world definitely needs more Mike Renshaws to help us laugh.”
Soccer in Dallas would have been poorer had Mike Renshaw chosen not to reply to a newspaper ad all those years ago.
Find more FC Dallas coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.