11th winner of the prestigious Torrans Trophy to be announced at Saturday’s Crowne Plaza event

Posted : 15th May 2018 at 07:21:53

The Torrans Trophy, an award presented annually to a Linfield player deemed by the club's directors to have achieved legendary status, is to be presented this year for the 11th time in total but for the first time at the club’s now annual Awards evening at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in South Belfast..

A few years ago a wonderful octogenarian and a grandson of one of the founder members of our club way back in 1886 presented a special trophy to the management committee with the expressed wish that annually they should present it to a player, past or present. Given that the donor was John Torrans, a name that became iconic over the first thirty five years of our club's history, the committee decided that the trophy should be awarded to a player who had also become an icon or a legend in the proud and illustrious history of Linfield Football Club.

Noel Bailie became the first holder of the Torrans Trophy and in many ways mirrored John’s great grand-uncle Sam who had captained Linfield for 17 years and had won many honours in the game. Having played 1013 games for his one and only club, Noel is a true Linfield all-time great and richly deserved the MBE award.

Another Linfield great was the second recipient of the Torrans Award. With a tally of 57 goals scored in the 1984/85 season, Martin McGaughey earned the coveted European Silver Boot award which he later donated to the club.

The management committee then decided to bestow this honour upon another star striker in Glenn Ferguson. Glenn won countless medals in his time at Windsor Park and "Spike", the current Academy director is a legendary player at this club, having scored over 250 goals for Linfield.

This prestigious honour was next presented in memory of the late, great Tommy Dickson. "The Duke of Windsor" was the captain of the legendary 1961-62 Seven Trophy Winning team and he ranks in the opinion of many privileged to have seen him in action, as the greatest player ever to wear the famous royal blue jersey.

The Torrans Trophy was then presented to Peter Rafferty, a great centre-half and captain from the hugely successful Roy Coyle era of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The "Raff" or "Bald Eagle", as he was affectionately known, was one of the great characters of the local game. He was an instantly recognisable figure and a fearless and inspirational leader on the pitch.

Five years ago Alex Russell became the first goalkeeper to win this award. He served Linfield with distinction between 1946 and 1960. A few years ago the Kop stand was re-named the Alex Russell stand in honour of the modest 'Sandy' who died in 2014.

Four years ago the Board of Directors decided that the Torrans Trophy should be awarded to Isaac Andrews, the Shankill Road right-half who achieved legendary status through his exploits in the Seven Trophy Season of 1961-62 and Linfield’s epic European Cup Winners’ Cup battles against Manchester City in 1970.

Three years ago the Board of Directors decided that the eighth recipient of the Torrans Trophy should be George Dunlop, the colourful and stalwart goalkeeper who achieved legendary status through his achievements in 570 games in the Linfield jersey through the glory years under manager Roy Coyle during the late 1970s and early 1980s during which he picked up nine Irish League winners and two Irish Cup winners medals.

Two years ago the Board of Directors decided that the the Torrans Trophy should be awarded in memory of the late Bobby Braithwaite who achieved legendary status as a star member of the 1961/62 Seven Trophy Winning Team and who sadly passed away the previous October. Bobby was one of a select few to have won all seven medals in that never to be forgotten and glorious 1961/62 season.

Last year the award was presented to Billy Murray who signed for Linfield in November 1977 and made 390 appearances (65 as sub) scoring 131 goals. Before leaving in August 1988, Billy won 7 Irish League Winners medals, 2 Irish Cup winners medals, 4 County Antrim Shield winners medals, 2 Ulster Cup winners medals, a Gold Cup winners medal and a Tyler All-Ireland Cup winners medal.

Billy, one of the most gifted players to have graced the Irish League scene, had natural footballing talents few could equal. His ability to ghost past defenders with the minimum of effort and his knack of accurately floating balls in from the wing for the waiting strikers, were his special forte. A shy man off the pitch but a wing wizard on the pitch. When on form, he was a real extrovert star player who could turn a game and who will rank among the greatest ever to wear the royal blue jersey.

There are so many great names in the proud and illustrious history of this great club and all of them would be worthy winners of this prestigious award. There is no doubt that the 11th name to be unveiled on the prestigious Torrans Trophy on Saturday night will be revered by generations of Bluemen and women for his terrific achievements in Linfield's cause.

The presenter of the trophy, John Torrans ’junior’, followed the Blues from a distance. He spent a match day at Windsor Park in May eleven years ago and returned with the new trophy a few months later. Sadly, he passed away on February 5 ten years ago, after a brief illness. He was a man of great courage and charisma and he impressed all who met him with his quiet modesty. He served with distinction in the RAF during the second World war and was shot down over France in 1943 to be rescued by the French resistance and hidden for some six months, before finally ending up as a prisoner of war.

We remember his life and it is a huge honour to have the Torrans Trophy at this club.
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