Alex Mills Sunday Life Memory Lane article with Jackie Patterson

Posted : 30th October 2018

The following excellent article by the leading local sports journalist Alex Mills was published in a recent issue of Sunday Life and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the writer and the newspaper.

IRISH LEAGUE LIVES
JACKIE PATTERSON


It was a dressing room filled with elation – with perhaps a tinge of disappointment.

Linfield, under the managerial expertise of Billy Bingham, had narrowly lost to a star-studded Manchester City side in a 1970-71 European Cup Winners’ Cup tie at Maine Road.

The Irish League part-timers had frustrated the First Division aristocrats for 85 minutes, until Colin Bell struck the late decisive blow.

It still ranks as one of the most memorable performances, not only in the illustrious history of the club, but by any Irish League side on the European circuit.

Fans were streaming away from a ground that was under construction at one end – and there was a big contingent that made the trip across the Irish Sea – when City striker Francis Lee popped his head into the Blues’ changing room with an offer of a free night in the players’ lounge.

It was a big-hearted gesture that Linfield full-back Jackie Patterson appreciated, but instead of taking advantage, he was side-tracked by his former Blues boss Dennis Viollet, the ex-Manchester United star, who was succeeded by Bingham at Windsor Park.

“It was a fantastic occasion,” recalls Jackie, a stocky, tough-tackling defender, who was a big favourite with the Linfield faithful. “City were a brilliant side. I was marking their right-winger Mike Summerbee. They had Bell, Lee, Tony Book, Alan Oakes, Glyn Pardoe, Tony Coleman.

“Losing 1-0 over there was a great result. Isaac Andrew was picking up Bell all night, but he had to go off to have a busted nose repaired and it was in the last few minutes they scored.

“There was a certain amount of celebration afterwards, but there was also a wee bit of disappointment. It was then Lee walked in to our dressing room and offered all the boys upstairs for a beer – he was picking up the tab.

“But Dennis (Viollet) appeared and invited a few of us to join him on a night out in Manchester. We asked the boss (Bingham) and he give us the nod, ‘as long as we were back at a respectable hour’.

“Phil Scott, Andrews, Ivan McAllister and I went out on the town with Dennis. The coach was leaving for the airport the following morning at 8.30am, we managed to arrive back at 6.45 . . . obviously the boss wasn’t too happy.”

The Blues, of course, produced the performance of their lives in the return leg at Windsor Park. Even though Lee gave City an early lead, two goals from Billy Millen turned the game on its head. Unfortunately, the part-timers were eliminated in the away-goal rule.

“Windsor was packed to the rafters, over 20,000 were at the game,” recalls Jackie. “Of course, Millen never let us forget his contribution . . . he was a real character.

“We had some great European trips. To be honest, I had never been in an aeroplane in my life . . . it was the same for 90 per cent of the boys. When we went away to other countries, we stayed in the best of hotels – it was marvellous.”

Four trophies landed at Windsor Park in the 1970/71 season – the Irish League title; the Gold Cup; the Ulster Cup and the Blaxnit (All-Ireland) Cup. Jackie credits Bingham for the team’s success – he duly left to manage the Greek national side before moving on to Everton.

“Billy’s training methods were fantastic . . . his team talks brilliant,” adds Jackie. “He made bad players become good players . . . and he made good players become brilliant players.

“He worked on players’ strengths . . . never talked about weaknesses. He used to work in little triangles with myself, Eric Bowyer, Phil Scott and Dessie Cathcart on the left.

“Cathcart was one of the most skilful players I’d seen and, once Billy cottoned on, he would tell us in his own polite tone, ‘just get the ball to Dessie’.

“In one of Billy’s first games in charge, we travelled across town to face Glentoran at the Oval. The ground was packed. But we were reduced to 10 men after about 15 minutes when Billy Sinclair was sent off after head-butting Roy Coyle. We were expecting a rollicking from Bingie at half-time.

“However, he walked in with the pipe in his mouth. He chapped his hands and said. ‘you’ll all be drinking pints tonight lads and you’ll be reading the headlines in the Ireland’s Saturday Night (newspaper), ’10-man Blues defeat Glens’. He was right -- we won 2-1.”

Although the double-header against Manchester City was a never to be forgotten experience, Linfield’s finest hour on foreign soil perhaps came a few years earlier. Jackie was part of the team that reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup in the 1966/67 season.

Having defeated Aris of Luxembourg and Norwegian side Valerenga in the first two rounds, the Blues were pitched in with CSKA Sofia at the quarter-final stage.

“We drew 2-2 at Windsor Park and were beaten 1-0 out there,” adds Jackie. “CSKA were then drawn against Inter Milan in the semi-finals. The Italians were then beaten by Celtic in the final that year.”

Tragedy struck, however, in the 1971/72 season when the Blues, then managed by Jimmy Hill, were preparing for another European Cup venture against Standard Liege.

Jackie adds: “The boys had arrived at the hotel in Belfast, but our goalkeeper Derek Humphries hadn’t turned up.

“Derek came home from England . . . I think he was at Arsenal. He was in the Police and was at the training depot in Enniskillen. Then news arrived he had been fatally injured in a car accident – we couldn’t believe it.

“We were all at his wedding at a Church on the Ormeau Road and five months later we were back there again attending his funeral. It was a real tragedy.”

When Billy Campbell arrived as manager at Windsor Park in 1974, Jackie’s days in a blue shirt were numbered, even though he was still only 30 years of age.

“I had won every medal available in the Irish League, some of them many times over,” adds Jackie. “I’ve given most of them away. My only Irish Cup winners’ medal was stolen when our house was broken into a few years back.

“My wife, Lorna, liked that medal, so we bought a gold chain for her to wear it. It was in her jewellery box and it was taken along with other things.

“My two kids were young, and I thought it was time I spent a bit more time with them, so that’s why I decided to hang up the boots.

“I had offers from Ballymena, Bangor and Glenavon, but turned them down. To be honest part of the reason was the fact that I had a testimonial season at Linfield. I didn’t want the fans thinking I took the money and then cleared off, so it was out of respect for the Blues – the supporters were terrific to me.”

Jackie was out of the game for three years when he received a telephone call from his good buddy, the late Jackie Hutton, offering him the chance to join him as assistant boss at Cliftonville.

“As fate would have it, my first match was against the Blues at Windsor Park,” he concluded. “We were winning 3-1 but Linfield pulled it back to 3-3. We grabbed a late goal to win it.

“Obviously, the highlight was the Irish Cup final win over Portadown in 1979. The Reds hadn’t won the trophy for 70 years. We had some party that night.

“My one big regret about that final was the fact that the late Terry Kingon missed out because he was suspended. He really got us to the final.”

Did you know?

Jackie began his football career playing with Cregagh Methodist in the Churches’ League before he was offered a trial with Ards, managed by Len Graham.

He made his Ards debut in a North Down derby against Bangor at Clandeboye Park as a 16-year-old. Jackie was one of the club’s youngest ever captains, taking charge of the side at 18 years of age.

In 1960, Jackie was in the Ards II’s team that lost to Larne in the Steel & Son Cup and, at the end of the same season, turned out for the first team in the Irish Cup final against Linfield, only to be beaten 5-1.

Jackie joined Linfield in 1964, ironically making his debut on September 12 against his former club Ards. After spending 10 years at Windsor Park, Jackie pulled on a blue jersey for the last time against Larne on May 6, 1974.

When Jackie quit his post as assistant boss at Cliftonville, he moved to Portadown along with manager Jackie Hutton, but admitted is was one of his biggest mistakes in football.
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