Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Down Memory Lane: Hard to pick just eleven Glens legends

As Glentoran, part of the fabric of east Belfast, celebrates its 125th anniversary in style, it's time to turn the clock back, to ponder on the past.

"Select your top team of Glentoran players over the years," was the subject the sports editor set me.

Normally, I shy away from such projects as it's difficult, no virtually impossible, to compare eras, tactics, technology. Yet the idea set me thinking.

My association as a journalist with Glentoran goes back decades. Indeed one of the first features I wrote for this newspaper was a visit to a desolate Oval two years after it had been hit by the German air raids on Belfast.

The pitch was still a huge water-filled crater, the stands and terraces rusted, twisted steel. A tragic arena against the background of the shipyard gantries which had been the German targets.

I have been fortunate therefore to watch and interview most of the Glentoran's war time and post-war greats including England's Bobby Langton.

Selecting 11 players from such a galaxy is a daunting task but I've made a guideline of only nominating those I have personally assessed either wearing the green, red or black of the Glens or in action for Ireland.

That of course rules out the illustrious half-back line of George Ferrit, Johnny Scraggs and Billy Emerson, heroes of the 1914 Vienna Cup win, Davy Lyner, Johnny Geary and Freddie Roberts who in 1930-31 set an all-time seasonal record of 96 goals including 55 in the Irish League.

Glentoran's role of honour is astonishing. Study some of these names: Terry Conroy, Walter Bruce, Sammy Pavis, Harry Creighton, Tommy Jackson, Bertie Peacock, Tommy Cassidy, Jim Weatherup, Warren Feeney, Eric Ross, Tommy Hughes.

Then there was Billy Neill, the true epitome of a Glenman, Sammy Hughes, who in 1952-53 scored 64 goals out of the club's 183 in a season, Billy McKeag, Tommy Lucas, Johnny Jamison, Alan Patterson, John Dunlop, Ambrose Fogarty, Eamon Byrne, Eddie Mulvey, Sammy Lowry and Noel McCarthy.

Lets not forget either the inimitable flash king, Frank Mulholland, Richie Warburton, Jimmy Murdough, Danno Fenney, Jonny Lavery, Billy Caskey, Vic Moreland, Paddy Waters, David 'Boy' Martin, Roy Walsh, Teak Tough, Rab McCreery, Jim Martin, Johnny Deakin and Jimmy Dykes.

The Detroit Cougars of 1967 are ranked among the finest Irish League sides of all time, possessing real quality and inspired by that charismatic manager, the late John Colrain.

That squad had class, camaraderie and outstanding results against teams like Shamrock Rovers, Sunderland, Aberdeen, Dundee United, Cagliari, Cerro Montevideo, Stoke City and Hibernian.

Managers today would drool if they had those Cougars in their ranks - John Kennedy, Sammy Kydd, Harry Creighton, Roy Bourne, Tommy Jackson, Billy McCullough, Walter Bruce, Arthur Stewart, Billy Sinclair, Jim Weatherup, Alan McNeill, Eric Ross, Danny Trainor, Johnny Johnston, Tommy Morrow and, of course, Trevor Thompson who scored four of the goals in that incredible 8-1 win over Linfield at Windsor Park on Saturday, April 4 1964.

There have been few more entertaining personalities at the Oval than big Trevor.

However, after much thought and pain at having to omit such a catalogue of players who have made invaluable contributions to the history of this great club, here is my all time Glentoran XI.

Many may not agree but at least hopefully they will have fun recalling the favourites of yesteryear.

Onward Glentoran to your next landmark.

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