Exactly 58 years ago today, Linfield defeated Portadown 3-1 in a Play off / Test match at Solitude to win the league and clinch the Seventh of the Seven Trophies in that never to be forgotten, glorious 1961-62 season.
A report of the historic game was featured in a 'Look at Linfield' article for the home game against Cliftonville in August 2013 and was first reproduced on this website 4 years ago.
The article is again reproduced below to mark this latest anniversary of this special and wonderful achievement in the proud and illustrious history of this great club and institution.
There is an added poignancy to thIs anniversary date this year, as one of our Seven Trophy Legends, Ken Gilliland, sadly passed away in January.
Only 4 of the Seven Trophy Legends are still with us - goalkeeper Bobby Irvine, Isaac Andrews and Hubert Barr, as well as Billy Wilson who didn’t play in the game 58 years ago today which sealed the seventh, final and most important of the trophy successes.
Exactly 40 years previously - In 1921/22 - Linfield first won the Seven Trophies and the players of both the 1921/22 and 1961/62 Clean Sweep sides have become true immortals of this club, as a result of their legendary, never to be repeated Seven Trophy winning achievements.
It's quite remarkable that the league winner had to be decided by way of this play off / Test match. Portadown only had to draw their last home league game with Glentoran to win the Gibson Cup. Against all the odds, the mid table Glens, with nothing major to play for, won 3-2 at a packed Shamrock Park.
It meant Linfield and Portadown were tied at the top of the table, both with 31 points from their 22 league games and as goal difference had not yet been introduced, it meant a play off had to be arranged to determine the destiny of the Gibson Cup.
Linfield won the Test match 3-1 at Solitude on May 17, 1962 to make history, by winning the league to clinch the seventh and final trophy in a truly amazing 7 Trophy winning season.
Just over 3 years ago, Linfield again won the Irish League at Solitude when an Andrew Waterworth hat trick sealed another unforgettable title winning achievement.
The Games that Made our History – by Roy McGivern
Linfield v Portadown, May 17, 1962
In the above feature, 'Look at Linfield' takes a stroll down memory lane, featuring some of the 25 most memorable games in the club’s history, as identified by supporters on the club’s official website. We look at the game itself and speak to some of the key players who created their own piece of Linfield history.
The first game that was featured in this programme feature was the League play off / Test match game against Portadown at the end of the 1961/62 season.
Linfield had already captured the other six trophies on offer that year and having finished level on points with Portadown in the league, they faced the prospect of a play off game to clinch an incredible second 7 trophy success in the club’s history. It was a game of huge importance for Linfield and over 15,000 fans descended on Solitude in North Belfast to witness what they hoped would be a historic occasion.
There was some controversy leading up to the game, as Portadown manager Gibby MacKenzie signed three Scottish players in an attempt to thwart the Blues. It was a topic of conversation in the Linfield dressing room, as legendary winger Bobby Braithwaite recalled:
“I recall Isaac McDowell talking about the three Scottish players they had signed just for the game. He told us that there was no way any player who signed for them could have the sort of impact that our own players had had over the course of the season and that we should just go out there and get on with it, the same as we had done all season."
Linfield suffered a pre-match blow when right winger Tommy Stewart was forced out, due to an attack of laryngitis. He was replaced by centre forward Jim Reid who had already scored 9 league goals that season and what an impact he was to have in the big game.
Braithwaite still recalls the special atmosphere at Solitude on that Thursday evening.
“We were absolutely amazed at the size of the crowd. I remember the atmosphere when we went out on to the pitch before the game. The place was jam packed at least an hour before the game. To be fair, there was a good lot of the Portadown supporters there that day as well, although the whole place seemed to be made up of blue, white and red.”
The game itself was a tense affair, as you would expect with so much at stake. Hubert Barr missed a first half penalty for the Blues, with former Partick Thistle goalkeeper John Freebairn making a fine save. Linfield were not to be denied though and Jim Reid gave them the lead on the stroke of half time. Callan equalised for the Mid Ulster side after 46 minutes but further goals from Braithwaite and Reid gave Linfield a memorable 3-1 victory to clinch the league to seal the seven trophies and begin the celebrations.
Reid recalls “As we neared half time we got a corner and Fergie took it. I scored with a powerful header and the Portadown goalkeeper said to me on the way off at the break that he never expected to be beaten by a header from so far out. I scored a second after the ball rebounded off the crossbar and Bobby Braithwaite got the other goal. Every one of us were carried off the pitch by the Linfield supporters at the end of the game.”
Braithwaite has his own vivid memories of the part he played in the game and the wonderful celebrations which took place afterwards.
“My goal is vividly embedded in my memory. We had a corner on the right and the ball was crossed deep to the far edge of the penalty area. I controlled it on my chest and flicked it up slightly so that it fell to my left foot and volleyed the ball into the net. Jim Reid scored the other two, he was brilliant that day. The scenes after the game were the greatest memory of my football career. There were grown men crying and cheering at the same time. When we eventually left Solitude, there were still thousands of Bluemen outside the ground and all the way back to the Donegall Road, the roads were blocked by singing and cheering crowds. It must have taken almost an hour for us to get back to Windsor Park. Isaac McDowell lived in the same city as me in South Africa and before he passed on, we would often sit and remember the great games and times we shared together and the great players with whom I was so lucky to play with and against. In my view, no game could ever compare to that wonderful evening at Solitude.”
Writing in the 'Belfast Telegraph' the next day, local reporter Bill Ireland captured the magnitude of Linfield’s achievement. “The most memorable moment in a night of stirring scenes came when captain Tommy Dickson, obviously visibly affected by such a wonderful reception, appeared on the balcony with the Gibson Cup. Suddenly, as if by some pre-conceived arrangement, thousands of blue scarves fluttered proudly above the heads of the cheering, singing hordes. This was the supreme salutation. A 40 year old record had been equalled, new immortals were born and a near impossible achievement was receiving recognition.”
The celebrations stretched long into the night and into the days and weeks which followed. The victorious Linfield side was taken on a celebratory parade from the Shankill to Sandy Row and another chapter in Linfield’s illustrious history was written.
For the record, the Linfield team which defeated Portadown on that memorable May evening back in 1962 was:
Irvine, Gilliland, Graham, Andrews, Hatton, Parke, Ferguson, Barr, Reid, Dickson and Braithwaite.
Footnote on the two goal scorers.
Bobby Braithwaite passed away in October 2015 and Jim Reid passed away in November 2016.
Above - Jim Reid turns away in triumph, arms raised in celebration, after scoring the first goal at Solitude.
Below - the Seven Trophy victory parade