Spotlight on our supporters programme article

Posted : 7th March 2015 at 01:07:59

Name: Rodney McCain

Year of Birth: 1971

Home town: Cookstown, Co. Tyrone

Supporters club: None

Where did you sit in Windsor Park: South Stand, right in front of the Press Box.

How long have you supported the Blues: nearly 30 years now; I started going to matches regularly around 1987.

Can you recall your first match: It was a 1-1 draw at Ballymena United in the early 1980s, possibly 1983. My Dad took me and a school friend along, even though my Dad was a closet Coleraine fan, thanks largely to his friendship with their then Chairman. We went behind, but got a point thanks to a penalty converted by the great Peter Rafferty. The Blues' fans that day were so enthusiastic about supporting the team that it was impossible not to join in, though we hadn't a clue what or who they were singing about!

Who influenced you most: I was fortunate to have two huge Linfield fans as mates in those days of the late 80s in Cookstown, one of whom was old enough to be able to drive us to every match, every weekend. By 1990, I was a student at QUB, and coming to live in the city 'cemented' my relationship with Linfield.

Did you idolise any particular player? I was a huge fan of players who were overt in their commitment to the Linfield cause and in those days, the likes of Martin McGaughey, Lee Doherty, Alan 'Bap' Dornan and John Easton were heroes of mine, simply becuase they would have 'run through a brick wall', if required to win the match. That said, one player was and remains my all-time Linfield hero, and that's Noel Bailie, the finest player I've ever seen in a Linfield shirt, and an absolute gentleman too. I can still remember him as a left-winger!

Who is your current favourite player? I now live in the United States, so haven't seen a Blues match 'live' since 2012, but Jamie Mulgrew has always impressed me, with both his commitment and his ability to take control of a game from midfield and dominate the opposition for long periods.

Who is your all time great (and why)? Well I only ever saw the great 'Bald Eagle' once, so I'm not sure I can list him(!), but as I said previously, Noel Bailie was the epitomy of what every Linfield player should aspire to be. He led by example, was vocal when he needed to be, had an unbelievable ability to read the game and snuff out danger before it arose, could tackle and pass the ball as well as anyone in the game, and had a commitment to the Club that was unshakeable. That Noel is also an absolute gentleman off the pitch, and was admired (if only in secret!) by many fans of our Irish League opponents, including many Glenmen, tells a story of how a top player should conduct himself as an ambassador for the Club even when not 'on duty'.

What other Irish League players from the past do you most admire (and why)? Raymond McCoy (ex-Coleraine and Glenavon) was our local milkman in Cookstown when I was younger, and I had a great liking for Raymond as he was a really 'down to earth' fella, no 'prima donna' attitude about him and he was a heck of a player, too. He would have been a fantastic player for Linfield and I remember begging him to sign for us, when he was considering his options at the end of his Coleraine days, but, alas, he went to the Lurgan Blues instead. One that got away!

And the present? Again, not having viewed a game 'live' since 2012, I'd have to go with our former striker Curtis Allen - the little fella always gave his utmost for the shirt on every occasion and was unlucky not to really establish himself at Windsor Park. He did well for Coleraine and has apparently been decent for 'them' too.

What is your favourite away ground and why? Mourneview Park in Lurgan is a superb ground for Irish League football. There's great seats with a good view, just a nice size for our away support to generate a good atmosphere, decent social club and usually a 'happy hunting ground' for Linfield.

Most memorable occasion following Linfield? This is actually an easy one. Nothing will ever surpass the drama of the final day of the league season in 1993-94; we beat a stubborn Glentoran side 2-0, and then had to wait for the result of the Glenavon-Portadown game to come through, hoping they would cancel each other out, to allow us to leapfrog them both for the league title. It finished 2-2 in Lurgan and the sheer feeling of joyous disbelief and the celebrations that ran well into the night at Windsor will live with me until my dying day!

If you had unlimited funds, who would you buy? I've always been an admirer of players who were labelled as 'midfield generals' during their careers, the likes of Souness, Robson and Keane, who could dominate and dictate the game from the middle of the park. In that respect, the two modern players I most admire are Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich and Germany and Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona and Spain. Either would look great in a Linfield kit!

Do you support any other team in England or Scotland? I have been a Manchester United supporter since 1977 and travelled over to see them many times when I lived in the UK. The fact that many great Northern Ireland heroes like Sammy McIlroy and big Norman Whiteside also played for United has always filled me with pride.

What was the best Linfield goal you have ever seen? A sublime chipped finish by wee Lindsay Curry against Portadown's Mickey Keenan in the semi-final of the Ulster Cup at The Oval in 1992 to win the game 3-2 for us. If it had been scored by Messi or Ronaldo, they'd be showing it on repeat on Youtube!! Simply outrageous against such an experienced keeper. Curry had immense talent when he was 'in the mood'.

What appeals to you most about Linfield? Despite being the biggest club in the country with a sizeable support, the Club itself has always had a 'family club' atmosphere about it, with everyone made to feel welcome (as long as you're cheering for the Blues, of course!!) Former chairmen like Billy McCoubrey and David Crawford were instrumental in ensuring that the Club welcomed anyone and everyone who wanted to lend their support to the Linfield cause.

What appeals to you most about the Irish League? The players are all genuine lads who want to give their best for their clubs at all times, and show tremendous dedication, with attendance at training several nights a week and games every Saturday meaning they spend considerable time away from their families and friends. If some of the players in the top leagues in England, Spain or Germany had to work an 'ordinary' job all day and then travel distances to go to training two or three nights a week for relative 'peanuts' in terms of financial reward, they might not show the same enthusiasm as our local players!

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