70 years since Linfield v Celtic day of shame that left Jimmy Jones with broken leg at Windsor Park
Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of a fateful day at Windsor Park when violence and anger combined to rock Irish League football to its core.
Jimmy Jones, arguably the best striker ever seen in the league, was at the centre of a vicious assault during Belfast Celtic's tie with Linfield which left him battered and bruised.
Such was the brutality of the incident, the Blues' official history simply lists it as a day when "Linfield's image was tarnished by a fringe group of irresponsible so-called supporters".
A Boxing Day game that had been pushed back to December 27 in 1948 due to Christmas falling on a Saturday, it was a meeting between the league's top two sides and so guaranteed to produce fireworks.
By the end, however, this meeting had produced the wrong kind of fireworks, with a then 20-year-old Jones pushed over the pitch-side railings and having his right leg shattered.
It was talked about worldwide and left a sour taste in the mouth of all local football fans.
With tensions already on edge simply because it was a Celtic-Linfield game, things weren't helped when Blues defender Bob Bryson had to be carried off on a stretcher after an accidental collision with Jones.
In the second half, Celtic winger Paddy Bonnar and Linfield forward Albert Currie were sent off, which prompted a small fracas on the Spion Kop terracing, now the Alec Russell stand.
Things only got worse when Celtic grabbed the lead from the penalty spot, Harry Walker dispatching his kick. It seemed like Celtic would hold on for the win, but with four minutes left, Billy Simpson equalised.
As soon as the ball hit the net, several spectators burst onto the pitch and were immediately repelled by policemen wielding batons. But when a similar pitch invasion happened at the full-time whistle, the officers were simply overwhelmed by the volume of people running onto the pitch.
"When the whistle went I started in the usual way for the pavilion. Then I noticed the crowd surging onto the field. They came towards me," recalled Jones a day later in hospital.
"I could see nothing but heads... I didn't know what to do and couldn't find a policeman.
"Somehow I made it to the running track and was thrown over the parapet into the reserve enclosure.
"I got up, ran and I was kicked. I tried to get up again.
"It was hopeless. My leg wobbled.
"I heard a policeman say: 'If you don't stop kicking I'll use my baton'."
Linfield were horrified, outraged and embarrassed. After an emergency meeting by Linfield officials 24 hours later, they apologised profusely to Jones.
The events of that day were even raised in the Northern Irish parliament a few days later.
Eventually, Jones was awarded £4,361 of a £10,000 malicious injury claim. Belfast Celtic withdrew from football in 1949, with no official reason given, quietly selling their players to other clubs and replaced by Crusaders in the league.
Belfast Telegraph Digital