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Don't give up on our season yet, insists award-winning Irish League legend Roy Coyle

 

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True legend: Roy Coyle is presented with the Ulster Footballer of the Year Dr Malcolm Brodie Lifetime Achievement Award alongside former goalkeeper Bobby Carlisle, Ken Moody, chairman of Ulster Footballer of the Year, Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson, Jim Flanagan, vice-chairman Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club and Steven Brodie, son of the late Dr Malcolm Brodie

True legend: Roy Coyle is presented with the Ulster Footballer of the Year Dr Malcolm Brodie Lifetime Achievement Award alongside former goalkeeper Bobby Carlisle, Ken Moody, chairman of Ulster Footballer of the Year, Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson, Jim Flanagan, vice-chairman Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club and Steven Brodie, son of the late Dr Malcolm Brodie

Freddie Parkinson

Roy Coyle with Malcolm Brodie

Roy Coyle with Malcolm Brodie

True legend: Roy Coyle is presented with the Ulster Footballer of the Year Dr Malcolm Brodie Lifetime Achievement Award alongside former goalkeeper Bobby Carlisle, Ken Moody, chairman of Ulster Footballer of the Year, Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson, Jim Flanagan, vice-chairman Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club and Steven Brodie, son of the late Dr Malcolm Brodie

Irish League legend Roy Coyle says he's not giving up on the season and believes the Danske Bank Premiership title hasn't been earned yet.

Coyle, who pocketed 50 trophies in his astonishing managerial career, has just lifted another prize - the Dr Malcolm Brodie Lifetime Achievement Award as part of The Ulster Footballer of the Year awards, organised by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club.

The 74-year-old former Linfield and Glentoran boss is anxiously awaiting the game's return once Covid-19 has been beaten and he would still love to see matters settled on the pitch. "The Premier League is starting again this month and I know it's a different game but I remain hopeful the Irish FA and Northern Ireland Football League can find a pathway in which the players can return to training so that the matches can resume," said Coyle.

"If players are awarded a league medal they will take it but was it earned? At the moment it hasn't been earned because there are games to play and teams who can catch Linfield."

Coyle was speaking after adding another special prize to add to his glittering collection - the Dr Malcolm Brodie Lifetime Achievement Award - and the Ulster Footballer of the Year awards, organised by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club, couldn't have selected a more worthy recipient.

The accolade, named in honour of the former Belfast Telegraph sports editor who passed away in January, 2013, is a fitting tribute to the most successful manager in Irish League history.

Coyle's astonishing managerial career featured 50 trophy triumphs and he was named Manager of the Year on eight occasions from 1978 to 2003.

The silverware, and the glorious memories that came with it, included 10 league titles with Linfield and three with Glentoran. He also led the Big Two giants to seven Irish Cup successes and tasted managerial success at other clubs too, steering Ards to a County Antrim Shield and League Cup and Derry City to a League Cup.

The Ulster Footballer of the Year awards, first won by Cliftonville stalwart Dr Kevin McGarry, were due to be presented for the 70th time this year but couldn't proceed due to the Covid-19 crisis. But a special effort has been made to honour Coyle, whose playing career included five Northern Ireland caps and two league championships with both Linfield and Glentoran.

The 74-year-old becomes the seventh recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, joining an illustrious list that includes Cliftonville stalwart, the late Freddie Jardine, long serving Harland & Wolff Welders secretary Fred Magee, former Portadown manager Ronnie McFall, hugely popular member of Linfield backroom team Kenny McKeague, respected sports broadcaster Jackie Fullerton and former Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce.

Chairman of the selection panel, Bobby Carlisle, said Coyle was a worthy winner of the prestigious accolade.

"Roy was the unanimous choice given his remarkable career, both as a player and manager. He was able to transcend the rivalry between Linfield and Glentoran, becoming a true legend in both camps in the process." The sun shone on Coyle as he collected his latest award at The Oval on Saturday.

"An award like this just reminds me my managerial career is over," he joked. "I'm humbled to receive this award and looking at the previous winners, it makes it even more special.

"It's an exclusive club and I'm absolutely delighted and very grateful that someone felt I was a worthy recipient of this award.

"I've got great memories during the time in which 50 trophies are won but, to be honest, I have an introverted personality and don't like talking about it! I don't need to tell people about my career but it is nice to be recognised. It's a fantastic feeling to receive this trophy and I am truly humbled and proud to accept it."

The fans used to chant 'There's only one Roy Coyle' for very good reason. He may be reluctant to pat himself on the back but his title of most decorated manager in Irish League history is unlikely to be challenged.

"Getting my first Northern Ireland call-up was special because players dream of playing for their country," he added.

"I was lucky enough to represent Northern Ireland five times.

"Among the highlights as a player was being part of the Glentoran team that beat Arsenal 1-0 at The Oval in a Inter Cities Fairs Cup game in 1969. We lost 3-0 at Highbury but we got the better of them in east Belfast.

"At Linfield, I won the double as a player manager and I think myself and Kenny Dalglish are the only two people in the United Kingdom who have achieved that."

Coyle is still a familiar face at grounds as he keeps an eye on Glentoran's fortunes but the Covid-19 crisis has put our lives on hold.

"The Premier League is starting again this month and I know it's a different game but I remain hopeful the Irish FA and Northern Ireland Football League can find a pathway in which the players can return to training so that the matches can resume," said Coyle.

"I'd love to see the league back up and running again and everyone feels that way. Supporters live for the game and I do worry about everyone's mental health at this time. Not having the football to enjoy is also hard to take.

"I know safety is of paramount performance but I'm sure the authorities here are constantly monitoring the situation and we can return to playing. We are running out of time to get the season finished and I'd just love to see the game return."

The awards selection panel would like to thank Glentoran chairman Stephen Henderson for accommodating the presentation at The Oval on Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph