Belfast Telegraph

It's coming home: oldest trophy in international football Windsor-bound

By Allan Preston

Silverware is coming to Windsor Park for Christmas with the long awaited return of the British Championship Trophy, the oldest accolade in international football.

The competition between the four home nations ran for a century between 1883 and 1984, with Northern Ireland bowing out as the last champions after the event was discontinued.

The trophy enjoyed pride of place at the IFA's HQ in Windsor Avenue until the move to new offices in Windsor Park, after which it was loaned to the National Football Museum in Manchester.

The old Home International series, as the tournament was also known, was ended for several reasons, including being overshadowed by the World Cup and European Championship, fixture congestion, hooliganism and England's wish to play 'stronger' teams.

Northern Ireland are now perpetual holders of the trophy.

With the new Windsor Park museum nearing completion, the trophy will soon be available for the public to see.

Windsor Park museum curator and Cliftonville star Stephen Garrett, a former Linfield player, said: "We're going to look after it well, we'll keep it under wraps.

"It's something we're very proud of; it will be the centrepiece in the lobby of our new education and heritage centre.

"We didn't win it too many times, but it's absolutely fantastic we're the last and current holders of it. It's great to have it involved in our new centre."

Northern Ireland won three times - in 1959, 1980 and 1984 - as well as a 1914 victory for a pre-partition Ireland team.

"There were a lot of big names in the tournament and a lot of famous results down through the years. It's a great part of our history," added Stephen.

He said he couldn't wait for the Green and White Army to see the features of the new museum.

"It charts the history of Northern Ireland football from 1880 (sic) up to present day. It's basically just to ensure the legacy is preserved and carried on to the next generation. We're hoping to test the facility in January, with a view to launching at the beginning of February.

"We don't want to give too many details away at this stage, as we want it to be a big surprise."

Admission to the museum will be £7 and includes a stadium tour.

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