During this period of enforced football inactivity Linfieldfc.com will provide occasional programme articles on our former players.
The series commenced nine weeks ago with an article on Jim Lemon and has continued over the past eight weeks with features on Tommy MacDonald, Stephen McKee, Eric Bowyer, Tony Gorman, Lindsay Curry, Damien Curran, Colin McCurdy and Martin McGaughey.
In this week's article Linfieldfc.com reproduces an article from the beginning of the season in which the spotlight was focused on former player Roy Walsh.
CULT HEROES – ROY WALSH
by James Kennedy
A joiner by trade, Roy Walsh feels privileged to have joined both of Belfast’s Big Two clubs. And, just for good measure, he also joined Manchester United!
Roy recalls, “I was born just a stone’s throw from The Oval, going to Mersey St and Ashfield Boys schools. When I was 15, I played for the Northern Ireland Schoolboys team and was captain against England at Wembley”.
Around this time, Roy came to the attention of Bob Bishop, the renowned scout who discovered George Best, Sammy McIlroy, and many others.
“Aged 15 I moved to Manchester Utd and stayed in the same digs as Sammy. I was homesick at first but people like George Best and Paddy Crerand looked out for me”.
However, after 2 years, Roy returned home, signing for Glentoran.
“I started to establish myself in the first team squad in that 1972/73 season and made my debut against Linfield in the Co. Antrim Shield. The Irish Cup final that year was a Big Two affair, and I thought I might get in the team. We were all taken to the Park Avenue Hotel and when the manager told me I had done well and could have chips with my dinner, I knew I wouldn’t be playing!”
After a few successful seasons at The Oval, Roy transferred to Swindon Town, but his stay in Wiltshire was short.
“During the first season, my wife became pregnant with our daughter Sarah. I went to the manager and asked for some certainty about my future. A couple of weeks later I was certain – I received a ‘Dear John’ letter from the club!”
So, it was back to Belfast where he signed for Linfield.
“Having already played for The Glens, I knew I wanted to go to Linfield. Every player wants to test themselves at the big clubs, I was no different. Derek Brooks and Roy Coyle came over to London and I signed for The Blues in the airport”.
With the Linfield team in something of a transition phase, Roy struck up a partnership with George Gibson, and between them they set about replacing the legend that is Peter Rafferty.
“I played with some great players at Linfield and we won loads of trophies. We also had some great European nights, including against Benfica, who I scored against at Windsor Park.”
Having reached his 30s, Roy thought his time at the top might be coming to an end, so when he received an offer to go to play in Australia, he was on the move again, this time to the other side of the world!
“As a family we settled in Melbourne. I worked in construction and played for a team called Fawkner Azzurri. They played in blue, so it was just like being back home!”
Roy later played Morwell Falcons, where he was joined for a while by Ron Manley, ex-Glentoran, and coached by Gus McLeod, a Scotsman who played for Rangers.
“I played football in Australia until well into my 40s, until my body convinced my head that it was time to hang the boots up!”
Having spent 30 years down under, it was time to return to Northern Ireland, and Roy now lives in Crossgar.
“My daughter and grandchildren live in Ballyhackamore. They’re the ones with the strong Australian accents! Most of my time is spent catching up with old friends and watching football at various levels.
I’ve been really impressed with how David Healy took the team so close to the Europa League group stages, and the game in this country is improving. And with talk of a change to a more summer league set up, I think the league, and crowds, can only get better”.