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Big Two dream teams: Are these the greatest modern day Linfield and Glentoran sides?

 

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We asked the media men from the Big Two to select their favourite XIs. Which team would win?

We asked the media men from the Big Two to select their favourite XIs. Which team would win?

Giants collide: Linfield’s Peter Thompson puts the heat on Glentoran
stopper Elliott Morris

Giants collide: Linfield’s Peter Thompson puts the heat on Glentoran stopper Elliott Morris

WILLIAM CHERRY/PRESS EYE

Billy Caskey

Billy Caskey

Glen Little

Glen Little

George Dunlop

George Dunlop

Jamie Mulgrew

Jamie Mulgrew

Marked man: John Devine towers over Glenn Ferguson

Marked man: John Devine towers over Glenn Ferguson

Different class: Glentoran’s Jim Cleary launches an attack

Different class: Glentoran’s Jim Cleary launches an attack

Linfield’s Billy Murray

Linfield’s Billy Murray

Peter Rafferty is challenged by Rab McCreery

Peter Rafferty is challenged by Rab McCreery

Gary Blackledge battles for Glentoran

Gary Blackledge battles for Glentoran

We asked the media men from the Big Two to select their favourite XIs. Which team would win?

It has now been over seven weeks since the last ball was kicked in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Withdrawal symptoms may now be beginning to set in for fans but, in order to help Big Two supporters look back to better days, we asked the media men at Linfield and Glentoran, Andrew Conn and Ian Clarke, to name their best elevens.

So here are their respective dream line-ups:

IAN CLARKE’S BEST GLENTORAN XI

Goalkeeper: Elliott Morris (2002-present)

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Elliott Morris

Elliott Morris

@INPHO/ Brian Little

Elliott Morris

 

739 appearances in 18 seasons is an incredible record for anyone but particularly at a club that's been through the turmoil we have experienced in the past decade. In Elliott's first decade with the club he played in some of our best teams ever, winning three league titles and 13 trophies. Elliott's second decade has been a tough one, but he captained us to two Irish Cup wins against all the odds.

Left-back: Alfie Stewart (1982-1988)

We haven't had the same level of stability at left-back over the years. Most Glenmen would pick Mark Glendinning but I lived outside Northern Ireland while 'SAS' was at the Glens so it wouldn't be right to include him. My selection won't be too popular, given how he left the club, but in his last season with us Alfie won our Player of the Year playing left-back in our double-winning team and was outstanding.

Centre-back: Alan Harrison (1980-1983, 1986-1988)

Another one who left the club in controversial terms, but the most complete centre-back I've seen at the Glens and probably the best I've seen in the Irish League. He was a very good ball-playing centre-half who in his first season held our defence together as a 20-year-old in our unbeaten Championship campaign in 1980-81 with no settled partner. When he returned to the club he won his second league title and Irish Cup.

Centre-back: John Devine (1987-1999)

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Marked man: John Devine towers over Glenn Ferguson

Marked man: John Devine towers over Glenn Ferguson

Marked man: John Devine towers over Glenn Ferguson

 

We have good options but in terms of longevity and leadership I've gone for John. In our double season of 1987-88, our regular defender, Barney Bowers, broke his leg in November and then his stand-in was hurt before Christmas. So, on Boxing Day, we arrived at The Oval with no idea who would play beside Terry Moore against Ards. Then Tommy Jackson picked an 18-year-old we had never heard of - and he kept his place for the rest of the season and barely lost it for the next 12! Devine could have fitted easily into today's game.

Right-back: Rab McCreery (1972-1982)

This one was a really difficult selection. In my first 35 years following the Glens, we basically had three right-backs - Rab McCreery, George Neill and Colin Nixon. I ultimately went for Rab because he played in my two favourite title-winning teams, in my first Irish Cup-winning team, the team that qualified for the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup and because I would be scared to leave him out! A Glenman to the core and a real leader on and off the pitch. He would be my captain.

Left-wing: Jim Cleary (1980-1989)

Jim signed for us from Portadown in 1980 when we were struggling a bit. It was the biggest statement of intent Ronnie McFall could have made. With his usual sense of occasion, he scored his first goal for us at Windsor against the Blues, a stormer of a free-kick. When he was on form, Jim made the team play at a different level. He could beat a man easily, pass like Glenn Hoddle, and finish as well as any centre forward. Many people say he retired too early at 33. But in his last season he scored 25 goals from midfield in what was one of his best campaigns for us. So, he went out at the top with absolute style and dignity.

Centre-midfield: Billy Caskey (1974-1978, 1985, 1986-1993)

Billy Caskey

 

Billy was a no brainer for this team, but the only question was what position he would play. In fact, he won the Ulster Player of the Year award as a centre forward. But I don't think any Glens midfield representing the past half century would be complete without Casko. He was the complete midfielder - strong and very robust in the tackle but equally great on the ball, a solid passer and he rarely failed to score double figures from midfield. He was probably also the most honest player I have ever seen.

Centre-midfield: Raymond Morrison (1982-1994)

I couldn't possibly leave out 'Nuts' because I have never known any player more likely to pop up and score a vital winner in a crucial match. His goals clinched semi-finals, finals and league titles for us. Our manager at the time, Tommy Jackson, says Raymond was always the first name on his teamsheet. Also, Nuts was a local boy and a die-hard Glenman. As well as a great finisher he was tough as nails and could run all day.

Right-wing: Glen Little (1995-1996)

Glen Little

 

Glen only had two years with us and played 75 times before transferring to Burnley. Very few compared to the other two great right wingers I've seen at the Glens - Johnny Jameson and Tim McCann - but I have never seen a player who could single-handedly dominate and change games the way the big Londoner could. In his only full season, he was our dominant force in winning us the Irish Cup, scoring an incredible hat-trick in a replay at Ballymena, and that unforgettable solo run and shot in the final against Glenavon.

Centre-forward: Gary Macartney (1986-1994)

Gary was 27 before he played in the Irish League. Everyone had heard of the big lad who scored all the goals for the RUC in the B Division, but there was still a scepticism about why he had left it so late to step up. Well, by the time he left us, he had scored an incredible 192 goals in 328 matches, becoming the fourth highest goalscorer in Glentoran's history. Macartney was the complete centre forward. Not a particularly physical player but lightning quick, hard to tackle, could shoot from anywhere and was good in the air.

Centre-forward: Gary Blackledge (1979-1988)

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Gary Blackledge

Gary Blackledge

Gary Blackledge

 

Everyone has one football hero who ranks above all others for them, and Blackie was and remains mine. The best finisher I have ever seen at this level but so much more than that. Also, he was Ulster Player of the Year after scoring 40 goals in 43 games as we won the title undefeated. He didn't even take penalties.

Subs

Dennis Matthews (1976-1980): Keeper when we won the league in 1977.

Colin Nixon (1995-2013): The complete right-back for so many years then a great centre-back and captain.

Johnny Jamison (1970-1980): A wizard ball player, the nearest thing I saw to a genius in a Glentoran shirt.

Johnny Jameson (1980-1994): Great goalscoring record in cup finals and Big Two matches.

Ron Manley (1979-1992): Just edged out Gerry Mullan. have been even better in today's game playing the lone striker role.

ANDREW CONN’S BEST LINFIELD XI

Goalkeeper: George Dunlop (1977-1990)

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George Dunlop

George Dunlop

George Dunlop

 

George was a brilliant keeper and character during the hugely successful Roy Coyle 1980s era. With 570 appearances and countless medals, he remains a hugely popular figure at the club and richly deserved the Torrans Trophy award with which the club bestows entry into the Hall of Fame. George was so good he kept Tommy Wright out of the team and the Ballyclare man went on to enjoy a hugely successful career in English club football and as an international.

Left-back: John Easton (1987-2001)

The terrace chant "You'll never beat John Easton" summed up the huge esteem in which Easto was held by Linfield supporters. John played over 350 times for Linfield during the 1990s and was fearless in the tackle and totally committed to the cause. Pat McShane and Terry Hayes were fantastic players in Easto's position but the supporters were probably right with their chant.

Centre-back: Noel Bailie MBE (1989-2011)

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Noel Bailie walks out for his 1000th appearance for Linfield.

Noel Bailie walks out for his 1000th appearance for Linfield.

Noel Bailie walks out for his 1000th appearance for Linfield.

 

Noel played in 1,013 Linfield games and broke all the records through his loyalty to his one and only club. Modest and unassuming, he captained the team to numerous trophy successes through his sheer presence and shining example.

A calming figure at the back, he was the first recipient of the Torrans Trophy. He remains involved in the club in a scouting capacity and his record number of appearances is unlikely to be challenged.

Centre-back: Peter Rafferty (1973-82)

'The Raff' or 'Bald Eagle' was a cult hero at Windsor Park, an inspirational leader and captain. He was fearless and a hero to fans in the 1970s. Peter was one of those players who had real presence on the pitch and even on his returns to his spiritual home of Windsor from his new home in Spain, he still possesses that aura of an extraordinary and legendary player. Another who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with the award of the Torrans Trophy. A dominant centre-half who was effective at getting on the end of set-pieces in the opposition penalty box.

Right-back: Alan Fraser (1967-1981)

Alan played in 362 Linfield games, mostly during the 1970s, and remains a fine ambassador for the club, having recently been awarded with Life Membership of the club he served with huge distinction. One of Alan's earliest games was undoubtedly one of Linfield's most memorable ever - losing 1-0 at Maine Road to a Bell-Summerbee-Lee-inspired Manchester City. Billy Millen scored both goals in the Windsor return but Franny Lee's goal sent Linfield out of Europe on the away goals rule.

Left-wing: Billy Murray (1977-88)

Billy was the boyhood supporter who went on to become the darling of the terraces. He played in 390 Linfield games and especially loved the Big Two derbies. His pinpoint crosses and equally effective accuracy from the penalty spot contributed to numerous trophy successes in the Roy Coyle era and Billy is yet another to have been awarded legendary status at the club with the award of the hugely prestigious Torrans Trophy.

Centre-midfield: Tony Gorman (1996-2002)

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Pointing way: Midfield maestro Tony Gorman in action for Linfield

Pointing way: Midfield maestro Tony Gorman in action for Linfield

Pointing way: Midfield maestro Tony Gorman in action for Linfield

 

Tony was the ultimate professional and a superb example to others. Famous for his thunderbolt free-kicks, Tony was a real driving force in midfield in over 200 Linfield games and was hugely popular. Tony's presence in midfield was a major contributing factor in several trophy successes. He was an athlete who possessed the energy, work ethic, positive attitude and dedication required to be a Linfield great.

Centre-midfield: Jamie Mulgrew (2005-present)

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Jamie Mulgrew

Jamie Mulgrew

Jamie Mulgrew

 

Jamie is fast approaching his 600th game for Linfield and he remains as effective and inspirational as he was when he first broke into the team during the Clean Sweep season of 2005-06. The driving force in midfield behind so many trophy successes, Jamie is undoubtedly the most fouled player in the league but, unbelievably, Mr Indestructible and Mr Consistency manages to shake off injuries and maintain his place in the team he has served excellently. His place in the history books as one of the greats is assured.

Right-wing: Peter Dornan (1976-85)

Peter played in 333 Linfield games. He was a stylish, creative midfielder who earned a transfer to Sheffield United for a brief spell but he returned to play a major role in many trophy successes for Linfield. A classy, box-to-box player with a great engine, Peter is rightly regarded as one of the greats in the hugely successful Roy Coyle era at Windsor.

Centre-forward: Glenn Ferguson (1998-2009)

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Glory days: Glenn Ferguson during his Linfield heyday

Glory days: Glenn Ferguson during his Linfield heyday

WILLIAM CHERRY/PRESS EYE

Glory days: Glenn Ferguson during his Linfield heyday

 

Images of four legendary forwards adorn the wall of the Windsor boardroom - Bambrick, Dickson, Milburn and Ferguson. 'Spike' earned his place among the all-time striking legends at the club and is widely regarded as perhaps the best £50,000 the club, or more precisely the supporters, have ever spent in securing his services from Glenavon. The most complete, all-round striker in the modern era, he really did possess all the attributes to lead the line and handle the inevitable pressure that comes with possessing the iconic No.9 shirt at Windsor Park. Another recipient of the club's Torrans Trophy.

Centre-forward: Peter Thompson (2001-2008, 2010-2015)

The striking partner and perfect foil for 'Spike'. Peter was perhaps the most natural goalscorer in the modern era and his predatory instincts around the box got the goals that contributed to numerous trophy successes in the golden David Jeffrey era at Windsor. Peter was a player for the big occasion and his proud record in never having played in a losing Irish Cup tie is unique and sensational. Peter was the boyhood supporter who lived the dream in scoring the winner in the 2006 Irish Cup final to clinch the Clean Sweep.

Subs

Roy Carroll: Impact made on and off pitch was immense. A huge character and larger presence.

William Murphy: An inspirational leader in 639 Linfield games.

Dessie Gorman: A livewire and hugely popular figure who could create an opportunity out of nothing.

Phil Scott: An inspirational inside forward who scored 220 goals in 400 games in the late '60s and early '70s.

Martin McGaughey: Euro silver boot award winner and Torrans Trophy recipient after 482 Linfield games.

So there are our dream Big Two XIs. Which one would win?

Belfast Telegraph