Belfast Telegraph

Local football mourns death of Linfield great Alex Russell

By Graham Luney

Linfield Football Club is mourning the passing of their legendary goalkeeper Alex 'Sandy' Russell.

Tributes are flooding in for the former Blues hero since he passed away in hospital on Monday after a short illness, aged 91.

Football fans on these shores are now reflecting on the extraordinary lives of three greats as Russell's passing follows the sad deaths of Belfast Celtic and Glenavon legend Jimmy Jones (85) as well as Preston North End's Sir Tom Finney who was also aged 91.

Finney faced Russell – and scored against him – when making his debut for England in the keeper's sole appearance for Northern Ireland in a 7-2 defeat at Windsor Park in September, 1946.

Linfield honoured the man from Kells and Connor outside Ballymena by awarding him the Torrans Trophy in April 2012 – inducting him into the club's Hall of Fame – and by renaming the famous Kop Stand, the Alex Russell Stand in 2004.

During the 1940s and 50s, Russell shone as Linfield's number one, grasping 33 medals including four league titles during 16 years at Windsor.

He made 12 appearances for the Irish League representative side.

After retiring from playing, Russell was Swifts coach and then first team trainer.

Linfield vice-chairman Billy Kennedy said: "Alex Russell was a tremendous servant of Linfield Football Club, both as a player, coach to the Swifts and first team trainer and all at Windsor Park will mourn his death.

"During his playing career in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, he was the finest goalkeeper in the Irish League; never spectacular, but steady and consistent.

"His Windsor Park playing career spanned the 1944-1960 period, winning a remarkable 33 medals.

"He won a full cap against England in the 1946-47 season and played in the Irish League's epic 5-2 win over the Football League in 1956.

"Alex was a very modest, quiet, unassuming man whose integrity and dignity stood out. He was a Linfield man through and through and his standing at the club was manifest several years ago when the Kop Stand was named in his honour."

Linfield media officer Andy Conn said: "I always recall Linfield chairman Jim Kerr declaring that Alex Russell was the greatest Linfield goalkeeper he ever saw in action.

"I can think of no greater praise than that."

In a Belfast Telegraph newspaper feature '25 Greatest Linfield Players of All-Time' to coincide with the club's 125th Anniversary, Russell was voted into fifth place.

The judging panel included the late Dr. Malcolm Brodie MBE and Linfield chairman Jim Kerr.

Tommy Dickson was voted the club's greatest player ahead of Jackie Milburn, Noel Bailie, Joe Bambrick and Russell.

A minute's silence was held before Linfield's home clash with Glenavon on Monday in tribute to Russell.

Funeral arrangements will be confirmed on Linfield's website.

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