Coming from east Belfast, it was Jim Smyth's dream to play for Glentoran.
As a boy, standing on the terracing at The Oval, he looked on in awe as he watched John Hill, Billy McKeag, Jim Weatherup and Johnny Jamison strut their stuff.
Having played for Orangefield School and the 52nd Boys' Brigade, Jim joined Clarawood Boys in the Dundonald League. He was duly spotted by Gibby Mackenzie, who knew a thing or two about snapping up players from junior football.
At 16 years of age, Jim, a fast-raiding right-back, was offered the chance to join Mackenzie at Portadown and, after only one appearance in a friendly fixture, was handed a contract.
"Back then there was a gap, between the ages of 16 and 18," recalls Jim. "I signed for Orangefield Old Boys to try to make the step up from boys' football.
"The next thing, Gibby and a guy named Tom Gilmour contacted me. I suppose I got a little bit of luck because the club was due to travel to Scotland for a pre-season friendly against Queen of the South.
"But the guy who played left-back couldn't go because of a pre-arranged holiday. Gibby put me in at left-back and I managed to keep the shirt. I stayed in the team for the rest of the season.
"The Ports had a squad of journeymen back then. Sammy Lunn was as hard as nails, while they had wee Terry Kingon, Eric Magee, Willie Gordon, a young Jimmy Cleary, Jim Alexander and Ian Donegan, who now lives in Prague.
"Another guy who lived in our street was Billy Murray, who was also at Portadown. He went on to join Linfield, while Jimmy (Cleary) and Blackie (Gary Blackledge) moved to Glentoran.
"They used to hold stock car racing around the pitch on the Friday night. We would have trained during the week at Shamrock Park and it would have looked great. When we turned up on Saturday, there were tyre tracks all over the place. It was hectic."
When Mackenzie was replaced by Bertie Neill, the Ports began challenging for trophies.
I warned I'd walk away until my contract expired. That's exactly what happened. I was out of the game for around 18 months.
They won the Gold Cup in 1978 and, later that season, appeared in that never-to-be-forgotten Irish Cup Final against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.
"We probably went into the game as favourites because we had already beaten the Reds in the Gold Cup," adds Jim. "It was a wonderful occasion and a great experience.
"There was a massive crowd at the game - a huge support for both Finals. I think there was something like 15,000 at the Irish Cup tie. There was a bit of trouble on the terraces before the game.
"I remember the Cliftonville manager, Jackie Hutton, having to go to the supporters at the Spion Kop end of the ground to help calm down the situation. The game itself went by in a flash.
"We came back twice to equalise. When big Jim (Alexander) scored late on, it looked like extra-time - until Tony Bell hit the winner for the Reds."
After eight years with the County Armagh club, Jim decided he was ready for a new challenge, but manager Hutton - who had moved to Portadown the year after that 1979 Cup Final - didn't agree.
In fact, a stand-off developed between player and club.
Jim adds: "Jackie insisted he wasn't prepared to let me leave, so there was a bit of a fallout. I warned I'd walk away until my contract expired.
"That's exactly what happened. I was out of the game for around 18 months. It was something I had to do to get away from Portadown. I was working in the Shipyard as a plumber and I did my own training.
"Even when I was on nightshift, I was out running on the roads. I used to do five miles in the morning before going to bed."
In an ironic twist, it was a Portadown man that ended the stalemate. Ronnie McFall was in charge of Glentoran and not only did he settle the dispute, but helped Jim realise his boyhood dream.
"I think there was a transfer fee of £5,000, it wasn't big money," remembers Jim. "I was just delighted to get the deal over the line. It was a long time to be out of the game.
"Being a young lad, I kept reasonably fit, although I was probably short on match fitness. I enjoyed my time at Portadown, apart from what happened at the end, but I decided that I wanted to win trophies.
"To be honest, I had run my course at Shamrock Park. I needed a fresh challenge. Big Ronnie signed me and got me going again."
Jim admits he had to pinch himself when he walked into a dressing room with so many big names at Glentoran, including Alan Paterson, Barney Bowers, Raymond Morrison, Billy Caskey, Gerry Mullan, Gary Macartney and Cleary.
"It was a fantastic squad of players," he adds. "I knew it would be a big job getting a place, but I was up for the challenge. Even though I had been out of the game, I didn't have any fitness issues.
"The first year, I made the right-back position my own. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, I damaged a knee and had to go into hospital for surgery. However, I was still able to return and get my place back.
"George Neill and I were challenging for the right-back position - it helped keep both of us on our toes."
Following the disappointment of his Irish Cup Final defeat in 1979, Jim at last got his hands on a winners' medal. He was named in the team that defeated Larne 1-0 at Windsor Park in 1987; Mullan scored the winner that helped Glentoran retain the trophy.
But in a career that promised so much, Jim surprisingly failed to see out his four-year contract at The Oval.
"Tommy Jackson told me he was putting me on the transfer list," states Jim. "There was no fallout, I was enjoying it. I won a few trophies at the club and I was on the tour of America, organised by the late Noel Lemon. I played in the four games. One of the big highlights was going behind the Iron Curtain to East Germany to play Lokomotiv Leipzig in the European Cup Winners' Cup back in the 1986-87 season. It was a great experience.
"I suppose my only disappointment was that I didn't manage to win the League title. I remember one particular year we were well ahead going into the festive fixtures but, when we came out the other side, we were trailing in January.
"It was a bit of a shock to the system when Jackson said he was releasing me before the end of my contract. I wasn't injured, I wasn't playing poorly, there was no real reason. He simply preferred Geordie Neill.
"We had done quite well in terms of winning trophies, so it was a bit of a downer for me. I still had lots to offer. At that time, players didn't have a say on which club they would be transferred to.
"Tommy informed me he was moving me to Ballyclare Comrades. I would have liked to have stayed with an Irish League club because I was still capable at that level.
"I'm not sure whether other clubs were interested, I wasn't told anything. It's not like today's game when players can take control of their own destiny.
"Having been out of the game for a long time before joining the Glens, I didn't want to go through all that again. I thought I'd be better playing than sitting in the stand."
After two years at Dixon Park, Jim decided to hang up the boots at the early age of 30.
"I made the excuse that I needed more time to focus on my young family," laughs Jim.
"The reality was my knees were becoming really sore after games.
"I've looked at boys that played on after me having received injections, and they are now walking like John Wayne.
"My girlfriend Valerie, now my wife, was a nurse and she warned me not to let anyone near me with injections. It killed the pain at the time but didn't repair the damage, so I've no regrets."