Linfield icon Bailie calls time on amazing career
Noel Bailie’s glittering career will reach its conclusion at the end of the season.
The Linfield captain last night announced that he will retire next month, having spent the last 22 years in the Windsor Park first-team.
Bailie, who turned 40 in February, told his team-mates of his decision to bring the curtain down on his illustrious playing days after over 1,000 games for the club.
In total Bailie has appeared 1,011 times in Linfield colours, but only nine of those have come during the current season.
“I don't know if it's sad or not, but I feel it's time to retire,” said Bailie, as he announced his decision via the Linfield website.
“I'm announcing my intention to retire at the end of the season.
“It's something I've been thinking about for quite a while now. At the start of the season I thought one more year would probably do me and I've seen nothing to change my mind between then and now.”
Although his Linfield career is now in its final phase, Bailie still has his sights on more silverware, with the Blues ready to take a step towards another Irish Cup final — their fifth in six seasons — when they face Glentoran in the last four at Windsor Park tomorrow.
Linfield are, of course, chasing their 50th league title in their 125th anniversary year and that would also bring up the 10th league victory of Bailie’s career.
He has won the Irish Cup seven times, as well as a number of other trophies and was Northern Ireland Football Writers Player of the Year in 1994.
“Of course I want to go out on a high. We've got big games ahead and I want to be involved,” said Bailie.
“I want to be in the team in the forthcoming games. I want to go out on a high and I want to be part of a team that achieves success in the weeks ahead.
“If we can progress to the Irish Cup final and win that, as well as go on to win the league, that would be a good end to the season and there wouldn't be a better way to finish my career than by winning more trophies.”
Bailie is the only player on Linfield’s books to have played alongside current manager David Jeffrey, having made his debut in March 1989.
He is also the only player at the club that Jeffrey didn’t sign and is mentioned with the same status as greats like Tommy Dickson and Jackie Milburn.
“It wasn't really a hard decision. At the end of last season I knew I wanted one more season,” he said.
“As the season has gone on, even if I'd played every single game, I don't think I would have changed my mind. I had more or less made my mind up during the last close season.”
Bailie has always said that management doesn’t interest him, but there may yet be a position in which he can prolong his 25-year association with the club.
“I don't know if I'll stay involved with the club. It hasn't really been discussed in detail,” he said.
“It's been mentioned at certain levels, but not to any degree or in terms of specifics. It's not something I'm thinking about at the moment.
“We'll see after the season if there's any way whereby I can stay involved with the club in any capacity. That would be a bonus if something could be worked out.
“I told the players of my decision at training. Most of them were probably shocked.”