Belfast Telegraph

Why Warren Feeney supported Linfield in a Big Two derby - when he was a Glentoran player

Big Two legend: Warren Feeney outside The Oval
Big Two legend: Warren Feeney outside The Oval
Ivan Little

Ivan Little

One of the Irish League's most prolific-ever strikers, Warren Feeney, has revealed he once talked his Glentoran team-mates out of a very different strike just before a Big Two game against Linfield.

Speaking ahead of a mouth-watering sell-out Boxing Day clash with the Blues, Feeney told guests at a Linfield lunch that his fellow players were threatening not to play in the match because he'd just been transfer listed after a row over a £40 bonus.

The father of former Northern Ireland international and ex-Linfield manager Warren Feeney Jnr said that the dispute blew up after he was rebuffed in an approach to The Oval board for the bonus for him and his team-mates after money-spinning games against Italian giants Juventus in the European Cup.

The Glens lost 1-0 to the Turin stars at The Oval in October 1977 but were hammered 5-0 in the away game in Italy.

In Belfast, Feeney had a late penalty saved by the legendary Dino Zoff to deny the Glens a draw against a team that included stars like Tardelli, Causio, Bettega and Gentile in their ranks.

Feeney told the lunch guests at Windsor Park that after the Juventus game he and the rest of the Glentoran team committee, Johnny Jameson and Rab McCreery, met club officials to discuss a £40 bonus.

Acccording to Feeney, Glens officlals told the trio that the club hadn't made all that much money from the match and there were only 11,000 people inside The Oval that night.

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Official records put the crowd at 25,000 but many people who were at the game have claimed that the attendance was even bigger.

Feeney said the joke was that thousands of people must have got ladders from the nearby shipyard and climbed over the walls to get into the ground for free.

Feeney, who'd been with the Glens for five years, said that the board's refusal to pay the bonus made him question if it was worth staying at The Oval, but shortly afterwards the Glens made up his mind for him.

He added: "After training one Thursday night a journalist phoned me to say that I'd been placed on the transfer list at The Oval. It was the first I'd heard of it."

Two days later the Glens were scheduled to play Linfield at Windsor Park and Feeney said: "All the boys were going berserk about me being on the transfer list. I said there was no sense in me playing and the rest of them said they weren't playing either and that the match was off.

"I told them not to worry about it and go out and play. I said that they couldn't announce the match was off with thousands of people in the ground after paying their money to watch the game.

"I also didn't want to go down as the one who was the cause of the Glens not playing, and the game was played."

Feeney watched the game from the Windsor Park viewing lounge 'to cheer on Linfield'.

Feeney's first love was the Blues and he'd been with them as a youngster, playing first under Scottish manager Ewan Fenton and then under Billy Bingham.

He recalled that he was part of Bingham's squad who were knocked out of the European Cup Winners' Cup by Manchester City on the away goals rule in September 1970.

But even though he didn't play in the 1-0 defeat at Maine Road or the 2-1 home win over the English giants, Feeney said: "That was one of the greatest nights I can remember at Windsor Park."

With Bingham as the boss, Linfield substitutes were often their pipe-smoking manager's 'retrievers', said Feeney.

"Every time something went wrong on the park Billy would throw away the pipe. If you were a sub you had to go and retrieve it from the track."

When Linfield offered Feeney the chance to join the club again after the Glentoran fall-out, he told Blues manager Roy Coyle: "You don't have to ask. I would walk to Windsor for free."

His second four-year spell at Windsor was a golden one for Feeney, who was part of the Linfield team that won every trophy that was on offer.

"I was fortunate to have played with some great players at the Blues," he added.

"The first time round there were the likes of Isaac Andrews, Dessie Cathcart, Sammy Pavis, Bryan Hamilton and my mate Billy Millen, who was best man at my wedding to Helen.

"And then when I went back we had class acts like Geordie Dunlop, Billy Murray and Peter Rafferty, the best leader I ever played under."

Warren said the saddest part of his time with the Blues came after the crowd trouble at the infamous European Cup game against Dundalk at Oriel Park in 1979.

What angered him, he said, was that neither Linfield nor the IFA protested after Uefa ordered Linfield to play the return leg against the border club in the Netherlands as punishment for their fans' part in the riot at Oriel Park.

Feeney, who scored the Blues goal in the 1-1 draw at Dundalk, said the decision was a 'disgrace'.

Indeed, he added that several Dundalk players, whom he knew, couldn't believe their luck when the European authorities ruled that the match would be played in the Dutch town of Haarlem instead of Windsor Park.

Feeney said a number of the Dundalk players weren't happy about the prospect of coming to Belfast and were talking about their officials conceding the return game.

"When they got the trip to Holland it was like a holiday to them and, with all the pressure on us, Dundalk won 2-0," said Feeney, who made no secret of who he wants to win on Boxing Day and told the Linfield supporters: "Keep the Blue flag flying."

Still playing to the Linfield crowd, Feeney couldn't resist a mischievous quip that the penalty he missed against Juventus 42 years ago was probably the greatest one he ever took.

"I sent 25,000 Glenmen home crying that night," he said to rapturous applause.

Belfast Telegraph


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