The history of Linfield - Part 1

Published Monday, 14 September 2009
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There have been some dark chapters in Linfield FC's history. But in recent years, the club has mirrored the changes in Northern Ireland society in a positive way.

Linfield was once regarded as a protestant club for protestant people.

It still draws the vast majority of its support from one side of the community but its squad is one of the most diverse in the Irish League.

Not so long ago the notion of Linfield FC having any association, however tenuous, with the GAA would have also been held to ridicule.

But the Blues have now developed links with the organisation.

Former Strabane Gaelic footballer JP Gallagher and West Belfast man Paul Munster, who also played GAA, told UTV Live Tonight how well they were received when they joined the Blues.

"I like the Gaelic alright and I'd still go to the matches but soccer has always been my first love," said Gallagher.

"Everyone gets on really well irrespective of what religion they are and the banter's great."

Munster lives close to Ulster GAA's Casement Park Headquarters in Andersonstown and he too is enjoying his time at Windsor Park.

"The fans have been brilliant to me and there's never any talk about who you are or what you are - football's the only religion for us all."

Linfield manager David Jeffrey insists that it is the players desire to wear the famous blue shirt, not religious affiliation, which matters most.

"I don't care if they come from Mars. The only thing that concerns me is that players want to wear the shirt. Linfield reflects the changes in society here. But my players just want to play for Linfield and win trophies," he said.


Dark days

But there were darker times in the club's past.

On Boxing Day 1948, so-called Linfield fans assaulted Belfast Celtic player Jimmy Jones after a game at Windsor Park, leaving him with a broken leg.

That incident ultimately led to Belfast Celtic withdrawing from the Irish League at the end of that season.

In 1990, Linfield played Donegal Celtic in the Irish Cup. The game made headlines around the world for the wrong reasons.

"At half time we had the discussion to whether we were going to go out again. We were afraid of somebody getting killed and at the end of the day it wasn't worth that", Raymond Bonnar told UTV Live Tonight.

Thirty people were injured in some of the worst scenes of sectarian violence involving sport.

"Again that was probably a reflection or mirror image of what was going on in the country at the time. And there were people here on that particular day just intent on trouble. They'd no interest in the game of football", Linfield manager David Jeffrey said.

Sixteen years later the wounds were well and truly healed. In 2006, Linfield played Donegal Celtic at Suffolk Road in west Belfast.

"The warmth, the friendship and the welcome was something else. We had such a fantastic day. It was all about the football", David Jeffrey recalled.

"We were royally treated. It was a good day all round and we remember we won 1-0, so I was pleased about that."

"To have a team like Linfield to come up was unbelievable for the whole community", former Donegal Celtic Manager Paddy Kelly said.

"We got the players together told them this isn't an ordinary team you are playing, this is Linfield football club. The whole day went really, really well apart from the result."

Linfield supporters

On Tuesday night, the programme looks back at Linfield's first game with Cliftonville at Solitude, after both teams were banned from playing each other there for 28 years.

The feature also includes a look back through the eyes of former Linfield manager Roy Coyle at what came to be known as the 'Battle of Dundalk' in 1979.

UTV Live Tonight: Monday-Thursday, 10.30pm.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
mike in U. S. A. wrote (1,625 days ago):
A decision that protestants have to make (and soon) is whether they are British or Irish. If they want to remain British and hide behind that barrier then so be it. The songs have nothing to do with culture in fact it is the lack of culture that produced them and it is the ignorant that preserves them.
Lenny in Belfast wrote (1,676 days ago):
Chris, Linfield supporters are not wrapped up in the past. In fact it is quite the opposite. However is more along the lines of people like you trying to drag Linfield supporters back into the past and latching onto any small bit of negative news you read. Instead to looking at all the good things that are happening. So slide on you horrible little boy.
Chris in GB wrote (1,678 days ago):
The articles talks about Linfield's history, yet ignores the fact that Linfield right up to the 1980's didn't have a Catholic player signed. Protestant team for a Protestant people. However they have moved on, even though their supporters are still wrapped up in the pst. They tell us they are not sectarian, as singing GSTQ, Rule Britannia and the Sash are not sectarian. But everyone else who hear them singing those songs know why they do sing them. Also Linfields success shouldn't be down to the fact that they now do sign players of all religions, but down to the fact that are subsidised by the IFA. Last year they got a nice wee wind fall of £400000. Any club being handed that kind of money should be successful every year.
Alan in Belfast wrote (1,679 days ago):
The Linfield family are & always will be a proud protestant, unionist based club, no matter how many catholics pull on the famous blue jersey. The catholics who play for the club know & respect this tradition, thats why they're held in such high esteem by the supporters when they sign & when they're doing it on the pitch. The majority of fans now couldn't give a monkeys what religion a player is, its about getting the best players for the club, as it was before the troubles, this doesn't dilute the supporters ethos it shows true respect working both ways! Fair play to the parent club in they're strides off the park doing cross community work & getting the best players at all ages to the club but you can never forget your roots or alienate your own fan base.
Steven in BELFAST wrote (1,679 days ago):
regarding the comment above. Your comment that linfield's board and membership is 100% protestant is simply wrong, its is narrow minded of you to say this and shows that you cannot move on from the past. I am a member of the club and I regard myself as a non believer, in any definition that is not protestant.
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