By way of further tribute to the late, great Ray Gough who sadly passed away in hospital in Exeter yesterday, Linfieldfc.com reproduces an interview with the Seven Trophy Legend which was published in 'Look at Linfield' and then Linfieldfc.com in January 2009.
For the benefit of our many overseas supporters here is the interview with Ray Gough which appeared in Saturday's matchday programme. The interview was carried out by Roy McGivern.
Look at Linfield recently caught up with another of the stars from that wonderful 1961/62 season, Ray Gough. The stylish wing-half graced Windsor Park for six seasons from April 1957 but also suffered some horrific injury setbacks including one in the middle of that seven trophy season.
Ray Gough’s football career began at the 11th Belfast Boys Brigade company, based at St Paul’s Church in the Shore Road area of Belfast. At the age of 16 he signed for his local club Crusaders and was soon to make a decisive impact at Seaview. Ray takes up the story “My father played for both Crusaders and Ards. He was known as ‘Silver’ Gough and he was quite a well known character. I played at Seaview for two seasons and achieved a fair bit of recognition at the time. I was recently told that I created a record by gaining Youth, Amateur and Junior International caps in three successive weeks.“
Ray’s talents on the pitch soon brought him to the attention of the cross channel scouts and he almost went across the water before Linfield made their move. “I could have joined Aston Villa, Preston or Rangers and had met all their managers but the difficulty was my amateur status. In those days if you were a working class boy from Belfast you were always hoping that you may have got some signing on money. Irish league clubs held your amateur contract and at the end of each season you became a free agent. A few weeks before the end of the season, officials from Linfield came down to my house and they were able to agree a deal with Crusaders which allowed myself and Bobby Braithwaite to move to Windsor on professional terms.”
This was the start of a trophy laden spell at Linfield although it took some time for the young Gough to settle at Windsor Park. “It was a big move for us and I must admit it took me a while to settle down. I didn’t get a regular place in the first team early on and found a big difference between playing at Crusaders and at Linfield. There was so much more expected of you.” At the start of the 1958/59 season Ray suffered the first serious set-back of his career with a cartilage injury. He was back as good as ever the next season though and helped Linfield to Gold Cup, Ulster Cup and Irish Cup success. “We beat Ards 5-1 at the Oval in the Irish Cup Final and I managed to score in that game. Jackie Milburn was a big influence on me and Linfield at that time. He was the best player I have ever played with and put thousands on the gate everywhere we played.”
Gough’s prominent role in such a great Linfield side earned him a call-up to the Irish League representative side in a unique game against the English League. He recalls “We played them at Blackpool and it was the only time that the English League side played non English players. They had Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay and Denis Law along with all the English stars and it was a virtual Great Britain Select. It was no disgrace to lose 5-2 against such a great side.“ Gough was also selected in the full international squad for a game against England but didn’t make the team.
Ray has vivid memories of the famous seven trophy winning season and played a significant part in the team’s outstanding success, despite picking up a career threatening injury. “Jackie Milburn had gone back to England and Gibby McKenzie took over as coach. It made such a change to the team because when Jack was playing centre forward he wanted the ball played up to him quickly as he was a great finisher. When he went we started to play better football and I think we became a better side. The secret of our success was that we had a collection of very good players. The two wingers, Bobby Braithwaite and Tommy Stewart were excellent players. We had Tommy Dickson, Hubert Barr and John Parke who you could play anywhere and he would give you a performance.
Just as that historic season was about to reach its climax, Gough suffered a horrific leg fracture in a game against Portadown. He recalls “I will never forget it until the day I die. It was a bad break and people tell me that they heard the crack all over Windsor. It was a compound fracture and there were complications which kept me out of the game for a long time. I picked up five of the seven medals though so it was still a memorable season.”
That sickening leg injury may have prevented Gough from reaching the very top of his profession but he returned to pick up more silverware with Linfield, including another Irish Cup success in 1963 against Distillery. He was eventually to continue his football journey in England and Canada before retiring in 1971. “I couldn’t get fully fit again and Linfield let me go to Exeter in an attempt to resurrect my career. I was there about five months and didn’t really enjoy it but the one plus was I met my future wife there. I then got a telegram out of the blue asking if I would go to Canada to play for a team called Toronto Italia. I went out and it was the making of me. The set-up was terrific and I ended up as the best British player out there.”
Gough had further successful spells with Millwall, Weymouth and Bath and came across some Linfield connections. “Dick Keith was with me at Weymouth and he was a great footballer. I was also one of three former Linfield players from Pittsburgh Street in Belfast who played for Millwall. The others were Tommy Brolly and Bryan Hamilton and we met up at a reunion event.”
Despite his football travels, Ray Gough will always be remembered for his skilful displays as a wing half at Linfield. In closing he stated “I have memories that will live with me forever. I was so pleased to play in such a great side. Some of the people from Linfield at that time became very good friends and they always will be. As for Linfield supporters, there are none better. Any time I am home, I am made very welcome and it is very nice to be remembered.”