The Top Table consisted of Peter Lunn (President), Dr Malcolm Brodie MBE, Noel Baillie (Captain),Tommy Leishman (former Linfield manager,1965-67), John Barnes(ex-Liverpool and England player), David Jeffrey ( pesent Linfield manager), Liam Beckett (former Irish League player, BBC Sports pundit and NewsLetter columnist), Jim Kerr (Chairman) , Billy Kennedy(Vice-Chairman) and myself. Minister Danny Kennedy and Junior Minister Jonathan Bell represented the Government.
As Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1997, I wrote the foreword for a book on Sandy Row ,The Row You Know, Memories of Old Sandy Row written by Donna McCann and published by the Sandy Road Community Centre Committee. This told of the “Row's” long and distinguished history with its linen mills, the Ulster Brewery and Linfield Football Club.
Linfield F.C. (full name Linfield Football & Athletic Club), is a semi-professional, Northern Ireland football club, whose home ground is Windsor Park in Belfast, which is also the home of the Northern Ireland international team.
Linfield played in the IFA Premiership (still popularly referred to as the Irish League), the second-oldest national league in the world after the Football League in England.
Linfield have won the League title a record 50 times, since the 1890-1891 season when they became the first ever champions of the League. They are one of four clubs who have retained membership of the League since its formation in 1890, the others being Glentoran, Cliftonville and Lisburn Distillery . Linfield's main rivals are Glentoran who play at the Oval in East Belfast, where Kerry and I have also lived.
Founded in March 1886 in Sandy Row in south Belfast by workers at the Ulster Spinning Company's Linfield Mill, the team was originally known as the Linfield Athletic Club and played on ground at the back of the mill known as 'The Meadow'.
Linfield moved to Ulsterville Avenue in 1889. After the purchase of a piece of land known as the 'bog meadows' just off lower Windsor Avenue in 1904, the club settled in what has become the permanent home of Linfield FC., Windsor Park, a ground that has hosted international matches since its opening. The first game at Windsor was played against Glentoran, the other half of Belfast's “Big Two,” on September 2, 1905 – though Belfast Celtic were the club's main rivals at the time.
In 1989 I published a history of Belfast Celtic by John Kennedy under my Pretani Press imprint. The name of this illustrious club evokes proud memories of a succession of players, whose names will be fondly remembered everywhere–Hamill, Scott, Tully and McAlindon, to name a few. From its beginnings in 1891 until its untimely end in 1949, Belfast Celtic triumphed again and again, accumulating a host of trophies. But Linfield have played on.
Roy Coyle who managed Linfield from 1975 to 1990 has been their most successful manager to date having won 31 trophies during his time at Windsor Park. He is closely followed by current Linfield manager David Jeffrey who has won 26 trophies since his appointment in 1997.
Linfield's current captain Noel Bailie achieved his 1000th appearance for the club when they played Crusaders F.C. in a drawn match. Shortly afterwards, on 27 April 2010, Linfield took their 49th league title after a 1–0 win against Cliftonville at Windsor Park in the Carling Premiership. Linfield secured their 50th league title on 26 April 2011 following a 4–0 win against Lisburn Distillery.
A public mural in Belfast depicts Linfield's contribution to the Northern Ireland football team, featuring Tommy Dickson, Joe Bambrick and Elisha Scott. As Northern Ireland's most dominant club side, Linfield have been regular campaigners in European football. Their most notable achievement was reaching the quarter-finals of the European Cup in the 1966–1967 season. After beating FC Aris Bonnevoie of Luxembourg and Vålerenga of Norway they faced CSKA Sofia in the last eight. This resulted in a 2–2 draw at home and 1–0 defeat away .