He was part of a trio who signed for Linfield from Dromore Amateurs in 1985, as can be seen from the picture below. The Club was delighted to hear from former player Ken Whan recently who was reminiscing about his time at the Club In conversation. with Jamie Megarry of official Linfield media.
The other two Dromore men, Alan Moore and Gareth McDonald both played for Linfield Swifts which included a trip to the Dusseldorf u23 tournament in 1986, before returning to Dromore Amateurs, with Moore moving from Dromore to Downshire YM towards the end of his career (1996-98).
“I believe Alan and Gareth returned to Dromore after this and again finished off playing there. It was the ex Hillsborough Boys connection which brought about the Linfield interest, as we played with Paul Mooney. During my time with Hillsborough Boys, we played in Cups in Sweden, Germany and Finland. Gareth and Alan both played together in the year group above me. I think it was Eddie Coulter from Lisburn who was scouting for Linfield at that time”, said Ken.
“Billy Rogers was our manager at the time with Linfield Swifts,, although we would have trained together with the first team squad. There were many times when I ended up with the ‘yellow jersey’ at training for not performing or as being the lad from out in the country!”
“I have limited memories of Düsseldorf, as I know we didn’t win it that year but it was a great team bonding exercise and great for me to be involved with such young talent like Lee Doherty who I met at Tony Scappaticci’s funeral a few years back. These tournaments were great for getting to know the players socially as well.”
Although a first team debut never quite arrived, Ken was on the periphery of the squad before he left for Portadown in 1987. Ports boss Ronnie McFall finally lured Ken to Shamrock Park but to this day, the Dromore native still looks back with regret.
“I believe I was close to making a first team breakthrough, as I was often in the squads on a Thursday night but I never made the matchday squad which was a big regret. I found it a bit intimidating at times being surrounded by ex English League professionals. You’d need to ask ‘The Boss’, Roy Coyle about why the breakthrough never came about, though. He kept at me about being overweight at 11st 4lbs and told me to stop eating ‘Mars Bar sandwiches’. I was working as a construction site manager at the time and it was difficult to be at Midgley Park for 6.30pm on the dot or risk being fined. I played up front but Roy Coyle moved me to right midfield. I had an engine but at 11 stone 4, I probably wasn’t sharp enough.
“Ronnie McFall had been chasing me for years, prior to signing for Linfield and I decided to give it a go. Terry Nicholson, who is still playing for NI Veterans with me, also still gives me stick for not signing for him three times. Despite playing most of pre-season for Ronnie at Portadown, we fell out because he signed so many players at that time and I played no football from October.
“I went to Banbridge Town for two seasons and was ‘Player of the Season’ and leading goalscorer with 29 goals in the B Division. I retired in 1990/91 with a back injury. I have big regrets now as Linfield was the pinnacle and I realised all too late now how their club was run compared to others. Totally professional. I only returned to football at 51.”
The eighties were a dominant decade for Linfield which included eight Irish League titles from 1980 until 1990, and at the heart of that was a plethora of young talent coming through. Whan had the fortune of sharing a pitch with some formidable names and it was interesting to hear his recollections.
“I remember Tommy Wright as a great cross country runner – he could run for days and was great cover In goal for Geordie Dunlop. Tommy was a class act and a great lad, and because he also came from the country we bonded well. He was always going to make the move but it came at a good time because Geordie was also a talented goalkeeper.
“I’d like to see Tommy get the vacant job as Northern Ireland First Team Manager. He’s the same type of character as Michael O’Neill who I played against when he was at Coleraine Reserves. Would be a great appointment.
“Noel Bailie was a great lad as well. He came in when in my second year Linfield shed a lot of their senior players and started to promote the youth, such as Randal Morwood, Gary Hunter, Noel Bailie, etc. I didn’t play long enough with Noel but his move into defence was a master-stroke, as his reading of the game was class and I could see how good he was when I played in midfield with him. I also had the pleasure of playing / training with the likes of George O’Boyle, Lee Doherty, Robbie Barr, Lindsay McKeown, Trevor Anderson, Kel McDermott, George Gibson, Paul Mooney and Billy Murray.”
Five years ago, aged 51 Ken dusted the boots down again to make a return to football. Inspired by watching his son, Ken now shares a pitch with a Linfield fan-favourite from the nineties – the ‘Dundalk Hawk’, Dessie Gorman! It seems it’s true that you never lose it..
“I play with Dessie Gorman in a Veterans Team called Evos Legends and remain unbeaten, including a victory over Linfield Legends. We raise money for local charities and have raised £4,000 in the last two years. We have also won the Algarve Over 45s Cup in Portugal in the last two years. Other members of the team include Barry Tumilty, Paul Evans, Ryan Evans, Stevie Radcliffe and Stephen Upritchard. I also play for NI Veterans, along with the likes of Seamus Heath, Ian Hamilton and Marty Tabb.
“The Hawk has still got it. An absolute legend of the game here and a character as well. We coached together at Lurgan Town where his son and mine played together for three years prior to the National League - together with Windmill Stars from Newry. His lad Jake is at Glenavon Reserves - the other two boys Tyler and Carter both can play a bit as well!
“Coaching and watching my son the past eight years has got me interested again, as family and work had taken over. He’s 18 and plays for Seapatrick. I need to find time to maybe take in a match – hopefully next season with my friend and ex Linfield team mate, Gary Hunter.”
Many thanks to Ken for getting in touch and sharing his memories on his time at the Club. Ken is still searching for any pictures that might be out there of him wearing the Linfield shirt. To date, we have had no joy. If anyone happens to have any pictures of Ken or the Swifts from May 1985 to May 1987, please get in touch. It would be greatly appreciated by Ken and the Club.
Ken Whan was born on 10 April 1964 in Lisburn and lived in Dromore. He signed from Dromore amateurs and in 1985/86 he made 6 Linfield Swifts appearances and scored 1 Goal. In 1986/87 he made 14 Swifts appearances and scored 5 goals. He was released in May 1987