Alex Mills Sunday newspaper article on Terry Hayes

Posted : 21st November 2020

The following excellent article on Linfield legend Terry Hayes by leading local sports journalist Alex Mills was published in a recent issue of Sunday Life and is reproduced here with the kind permission of both the author and the paper.

Irish League Lives . . . Terry Hayes

ALTHOUGH his promising playing career was cruelly cut shot at just 24 years of age, it didn’t prevent Terry Hayes from writing his own little chapter in the history of Linfield Football Club.

Now into his 46th season, the club’s sports therapist may be recognised as the man with the healing hands at Windsor Park, but he once had the world at his feet – literally.

As a fresh-faced 18-year-old, he signed a three-year contract with Luton Town boss David Pleat – a dream move that was sadly derailed by personal tragedy.

Having been transferred from Linfield – the fee was around £15,000 back in 1978 – the east Belfast man couldn’t wait to return home. He was brought back by manager Roy Coyle.

And, just when he was on the crest of a wave in a Linfield side that dominated Irish League football, Terry’s journey ended after he sustained a horrible double break of his leg in the 1983 Irish Cup final with Glentoran at the Oval – he collided with an up-and-coming Raymond Morrison.

The tragedy confirmed his football career would go in a different direction.

“I remember the tackle,” recalls Terry. “Raymond had come on a substitute. The Glens were defending a 2-0 lead. Then we scored late on.

“We were chasing the game. I tried to lump a cross into the box, and he (Morrison) came across me. I was stretched off. I was rushed to the Ulster Hospital.

“The following day and Raymond and his girlfriend visited me. He apologised for what happened and I accepted it. I’ve never had any grudges over it. He was man enough to come and see me.

“That was the end of it for me as a player. I struggled for two years, sustaining stress fracture after stress fracture. Fortunately, I had been studying sports therapy. I worked with the late, great Len Hiller in his clinic one day a week. My football journey took off in a different direction.”

Terry arrived at Windsor Park at 15 years of age, spotted by scout Gordon Thompson.

“I was getting two buses into town all through the troubles,” he states. “It was a difficult period. Billy Hamilton’s father quite kindly offered to take me home to the Braniel after training.

“They lived in Gilnahark. Billy and I played in the Linfield Rangers team. He was slightly older than me. He forged his way into the first team in 1977 and was then transferred to QPR.”

The following season, Coyle had replaced Billy Campbell as manager, and he began filtering a few of the Swifts into the first team. Terry smiles: “I played for all three teams in the space of one week as there was an injury crisis at the club.

“We were going to the Oval on Boxing Day against a good Glentoran team . . . I was pulled in at the last minute. I played right back and had to mark Warren Feeney (senior) which was a bit of an experience.

“He tried to wind me up throughout the game. Two days later, I played for the Rangers in the Youth Cup final against Portadown, which we won. Then the following Saturday, I was back playing for the Swifts.

“I didn’t get into the first team again until the end of that season. I played in Roy Coyle’s first trophy winning team, beating Glentoran in the County Antrim Shield final. It was a great experience. The following year, we won the double.”

Terry’s raving performances alerted the cross-channel scouts. He added: “I signed a three year deal at Luton, but was home within 12 months. It was a great club, with a smashing manager in David Pleat.

“Mal Donaghy and I were in the same digs and we had a caring landlady. Everything was there for me, but my heart wasn’t in it.

“I was still reeling from the death of my brother Don, who was killed in a motorcycle accident, I was 16, he was a year older. My mum never really recovered. She couldn’t get in touch with me regularly at Luton. There were no mobile telephones, you had to queue at a telephone box.

“I had also had just met Liz, my wife. You hear about the IFA putting things in place these days to make kids mentally tough. I wasn’t mentally tough back then. I just wanted home.”

Terry returned to join a Linfield side that was a dominant force in local football.

He adds: “We had some big characters in the dressing room, Geordie Dunlop, Rafferty, McKeown, Dornan, Murray, McKee, Nixon, McCurdy. They went on to win six league titles in a row.”

Instead of adding to his medal haul, Terry was dealt that devastating blow back in 1983.

“Linfield knew I couldn’t play on but were keen for me to remain as assistant to Len,” he added. “They looked after me. I signed probably one of the longest contracts anyone was ever offered at Linfield – five years.

“The club funded my studies (physiotherapy) at Keele University in Staffordshire which was a great assistance to me. When Len retired, I took over in 1986-87.

“It was quite challenging because the players I played with were still at the club. They were all strong characters, and I wasn’t sure how that would work.

“I was privileged to be the first ex-player Roy ever employed on his staff. He wasn’t one for keeping former players around him. I knew I had to prove myself and win over the players – and the manager.”

When Coyle departed in 1990, Terry wasn’t far behind.

“He was replaced by Eric Bowyer,” adds Terry. “Obviously, taking over from Roy was a massive job. It was a rebuilding process. I was frustrated and I pestered him (Bowyer) to let me play again.

“I was approaching 30. I thought this was my last chance, so I decided to take a break from the medical side . . . I wanted to see if I could play again. I needed to get it out of my head – it was torturing me. I would even have played for the Swifts.

“Billy Hamilton was manager of Distillery and he invited me to Ballyskeagh. It went well. We finished fourth or fifth in the league, but I knew my leg wasn’t right. At the end of the season I was thinking, what’s next for me?”

But, when Trevor Anderson replaced Bowyer, Terry received a telephone call from the late David Crawford about the possibility of returning to the club.

“This is my 46th season at Windsor Park, as player and staff member,” he proudly states. “I’ve been part of 24 title wins and 13 Irish Cup successes.”

Terry has worked under seven different managers and admits they all had their own unique qualities.

He laughs: “Roy Coyle was never one for putting an arm around the shoulder. He lay down the law, but he was dealing with big characters. He signed winners. Or he made you a winner.

David Jeffrey had both traits. He is a very caring manager for his players, but if you fell out with him, or he knew you were finished, you were out the door.

“Trevor (Anderson) was Trevor. He put an exciting team together and then after two years he moved on.”

And, on current boss, David Healy, Terry adds: “David would be more like the Coyle type. I keep him going because Roy Keane signed him too many times . . . he has that bit of Keano about him.”

Terry, of course, also became a vital member of the Northern Ireland international medical team set-up, brought on board by Bryan Hamilton – a position he held for 16 years, covering close on 130 games.

And, in an ironic twist, Terry was involved when Healy pulled on the green jersey for the first time.

“I remember him coming into the squad as a quiet, innocent lad,” adds Terry. “We (the staff) tried to be protective of the young ones because the senior guys had a tendency to share their bad habits.

“We did our best to protect him. I’ve a great memory David breaking the country’s goal scoring record in the Caribbean. When he signed for my favourite team, Leeds United, I thought even more of him.

“My first international trip was to Canada with the likes of Gillespie, Magilton, Dowie. My first job was going out at night along with Gerry Armstrong around different establishments to find players.

“We played in Edmonton, two games against Chile and Canada. Every night we were sent out to trawl the bars because people were breaking the curfew.

“Seriously, I’ve some fantastic memories . . . beating England, beating Spain, Sweden, Denmark and drawing with Portugal, incredible games. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t manage to qualify for any of the major tournaments.”

Did you know? . . .

As a player, Terry racked up a total of 13 winners medals at Linfield which included, five League titles, two Irish Cups, three County Antrim Shield, two Gold Cup and one All-Ireland Tyer Cup. He was also capped eight times at youth international and made one Under-21 appearance.

Terry married his wife Liz 37 years ago – he had to walk down the isle in a full plaster cast and on crutches after breaking his leg just four weeks earlier (as mentioned above). They have two children, Gareth (34), who is a fitness instructor and 27-year-old Christina.

Having initially fulfilled the role of physiotherapist for the Northern Ireland Under-16 squad, Terry was promoted to the senior team by manager Bryan Hamilton in 1994.

Terry worked under five different Northern Ireland managers – Hamilton, Lawrie McMenemy, Sammy McIlroy, Lawrie Sanchez and Nigel Worthington – before bowing out of the international scene in 2011.
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