Ivan Little Belfast Telegraph article on new Irish League website constructed by Linfield member

Posted : 3rd October 2022 at 14:55:48

Below is a ‘Belfast Telegraph’ article by leading local journalist Ivan Little concerning Linfield senior member Haydn Milligan who’s recently launched a new website packed with statistics on Irish League football.

A Linfield senior member has just completed what’s believed to be the most exhaustive archive of Irish League results that’s ever been compiled.

For Haydn Milligan’s remarkable new website which is free to access for all supporters on the internet includes the scores of EVERY match in the history of football here.

And that’s an eye-watering 33,500 results with 117,000 goals in games between 400 teams at 350 venues in no fewer than 40 competitions dating back to 1881 when football was played by clubs from the south as well as from the north of Ireland.

Haydn, a 71 year old retired Information Technology expert who had extensive experience in forensic data work, has been engaged in his labour of love for more than two years.

“It all started after I tried to locate some old results from Irish League encounters from years back and I wondered why, when it was easy to get past scores from the likes of Man United and Liverpool games, it was so hard to track down similar information about matches here.

“That got me thinking about trying to round up all the scores from the past,” says Haydn who spent months and months beavering away on his truly herculean task to research the results before gathering them together on a website.

The fact that the idea for his Irish League Archive, as it’s known, had been born during the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the work proved to be a welcome pastime at home for Haydn during lockdown though the scale of the job surprised even the author.

Says Haydn: “I was lucky that I was able to access newspaper archives online because libraries were shut during the pandemic. A couple of books were good starting points too but they didn’t have all the results which was what I wanted to include in my project along with the dates of the games and the stages of the various competitions.

“I thought I might have been able to source some results from club websites but Ballymena United’s was the only one that was really useful. And some of the clubs didn’t even reply to my requests for assistance. “

Haydn also discovered that a number of the already-published Irish League tables were incorrect because the goals for and goals against statistics didn’t tally which forced Haydn to go back and check the results and ‘fix’ the final league standings.

As the end of the project came in sight for Haydn he realised that even after visits to re-opened libraries the task of finding some of the results was still a challenge. “A number of them were pretty elusive,” he admits. “But my endurance – and the patience shown by my wife Norma during my hours and hours spent in my office on the computer – paid off and I kept chipping away until I eventually had all the results in the bag. It was a great feeling.

“I was on a roll and I did think about trying to winkle out all the scorers on the website but that was impossible with 117,000 goals. The notion of attempting to find all the half-time scores was quickly abandoned too,”says Haydn, a former pupil of Regent House school in Newtownards, who returned to live in Northern Ireland several years ago after four decades working in England where he supported Portsmouth.

“But my first love like that of my father and grandfather before me has always been Linfield and I followed their results every week and saw them each time I was back in Northern Ireland on visits. And now I rarely miss any of their matches home or away,” says Haydn, a former treasurer of Belmont Linfield Supporters Club who toyed with the idea of publishing a book containing his Irish League Archive findings.

“But I reckoned it would have needed four reasonably-sized volumes to get all the information in. So I stuck with my original plan to incorporate all the facts and figures I have in a website which is available for all fans of the game here.

“And it’s free because I never even contemplated making it pay-for-view because it was a hobby for me, and only cost me a comparatively small amount of money though I wouldn’t say no to sponsorship or perhaps PayPal assistance down the line to meet the running costs.”

Haydn offered NIFL the chance to put his archive on their website but he’s been disappointed that they haven’t availed of the opportunity so far.

So who does Haydn think will use the archive?

“Well, I’m sure it won’t just be what people refer to as football anoraks. The website is quite simple to use and I think it will definitely settle a few arguments about games from yesteryear.

“Once supporters dip a toe in the archive I think they will keep coming back to it. It’s fairly addictive. And my plan is to promote the website on fans’ forums here and even further afield.” says the passionate advocate of Irish League football.

“Standards are rising all the time and crowds are going up. And I think the emergence of full time professionalism has been a real boost.”

Haydn’s work on his archive hasn’t stopped and he has been adding links to results to newspaper reports of games and video clips of highlights from YouTube which have become more and more popular in the last 20 years.

“I’ll also be updating the results at the end of every season. And who knows I may even add a profile or two of some big name players and possibly post brief histories of each club including some teams whose names are only distant memories like Ligoniel and Tritonville plus Army teams like the Lancashire Fusiliers.

“And I’m sure there will be a lot of interest in the fact that Belfast Celtic’s results until they went out of the game are in the archive too.”

One thing that totally surprised Haydn as he did his research was his discovery that teams here have competed in FORTY competitions including European tournaments.

He says: “I would have guessed perhaps 15 because I remember watching tournaments like the Blane Cup. But there were a lot of even more obscure cups played for in Ireland too and of course Irish clubs did once compete in the FA Cup.”

Incidentally Haydn admits some stats on his website may be wrong. He says: “Some of my sources might not have been accurate but if anyone spots any mistakes I’m hoping they will get in touch with proof of the right information.”

For more information about the website go to www.irishleaguearchive.org

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