During this period of enforced football inactivity Linfieldfc.com will provide occasional programme articles on our former players
The series commenced two weeks ago with an article on Jim Lemon and continued last week with a feature on Tommy McDonald.
It is perhaps fitting and appropriate that the third player to be featured in this series should be a former team mate of the late Ken Barclay who sadly passed away on Friday and as can be seen from the team photo below, Ken and stylish midfielder Stephen McKee both played in the same Roy Coyle Linfield team in the mid to late 1970s.
CULT HEROES – STEPHEN McKEE
by James Kennedy
Another in a long line of Linfield players from East Belfast, Stephen McKee could easily have supported Big Two rivals Glentoran.
“My Mother came from Woodvale, while Dad was an East Belfast man. I could have followed Glentoran, although my Grandfather, Hugh Pollock, had a close association with Linfield and I spent a lot of time staying in his house off Ballygomartin Road. I wasn’t the only ‘lodger’ in the house as the great former 60s star Arthur Thomas also stayed with him”.
Attending Orangefield Boys Secondary School, Stephen played in the same team as George Dunlop.
“Billy Murray was in the class above us. I also played for Clara Boys and the 113th Belfast Boys’ Brigade”.
Signing for Linfield aged 16, Stephen played for the Rangers under Billy Sinclair and then Billy Rodgers with the Swifts.
“Another Billy, Billy Campbell, introduced me to the 1st Team in 1974. One day he called me into the 1st Team changing room and introduced me to the squad. You had some greats in there, like Peter Rafferty, Davy Nixon and Eric Bowyer, and I got to play in the same team as them!”
Making his debut as a substitute against Portadown, Stephen immediately endeared himself to the fans with a goal and an assist. Not a bad way to start!”
“Running out on to the Windsor Park pitch, coming out of the tunnel, that was a real thrill for me”.
It wasn’t long before Stephen came to the attention of cross channel clubs.
“The Sheffield Utd manager, Jimmy Sirrell, came to watch me play against Glentoran in The City Cup, and they signed me up soon after in a hotel in Lisburn. There was a decent transfer fee involved, and I was off to South Yorkshire on a three year contract”.
It wasn’t long before Stephen established himself as a 1st Team regular at Bramall Lane, although the team struggled, and Sirrell didn’t last long
“Harry Haslam took over, and it was he who released me. My transfer deal included a further payment after I had played a certain number of games. I was a game short of this and the club couldn’t afford the extra money, so I never played for them again”.
Roy Coyle re-signed Stephen for The Blues, and he was part of the Linfield team who dominated the Irish League for the best part of a decade.
“Winning major trophies almost every season meant plenty of medals and trips to Europe. I played against PSV Eindhoven in my first spell at Windsor, then against the likes of Nantes, Beveren, Servette of Switzerland. Plus we got to play in tournaments in America and Italy”.
Stephen also captained Linfield Swifts to victory in the 1983 Steel and Sons Cup final.
“We had a great team then, and the goals in the final against Ballymena Utd Reserves were scored by Stephen McBride and Darrin Coyle”.
Stephen would eventually depart Windsor Park in 1986 for Ballymena Utd, and later played for Bangor before finishing at Cliftonville under Billy Sinclair.
“The two seasons I spent at Bangor were great. John Flanagan was the manager of a good side, and we won a couple of trophies. When I moved to Solitude, I thought it was fitting that I should end my career under Sinky who had been my manager way back at the start with Linfield Rangers”.
Stephen’s older son Aaron also played for Linfield, and spent five years as captain of Leighton Town in England.
“Aaron has recently come back home and signed for Michael Gault’s Ballymacash Rangers. On his debut he came on as a substitute and was Man of the Match”.
A chip of the old block you might say.