Since I first have been able to talk I have always supported Linfield and being so long ago I cannot remember my first match. My first memory though is a game against Distillery at Grosvenor Park in the early 1950’s, but the details have eluded me.
My brother who was a ‘blueman’ was a huge influence in me supporting Linfield. He used to lift me over the turnstiles when I was very young. On more than one occasion it resulted in me banging my head on the beam, which was designed to discourage this type of entry. We still have a laugh about it, as I keep telling him I now have a bald patch on top of my head due to the constant exchanges with the wooden beam.
It is with immense pride that my three children are also Linfield supporters one of whom, like myself, seldom misses a Linfield game.
A constant reminder of Windsor Park greets me every time I leave my house. I was fortunate to obtain a piece of the spion Kop terracing during the building of the Alex Russell stand and is proudly positioned into the pathway. A bit of ‘blue’ history adorning a street in east Belfast!
The best match I remember was the European Cup qualifying round in 1984 against Panathanikos at Windsor Park. We were at one stage 3 nil up and we all thought progression into the next round was a certainty. It was amazing to score three times against such class opposition and I could not believe the performance especially in the first half. Unfortunately they came back at us and drew 3 all. We lost 2-1 in Greece in the return fixture.
I have seen many great players at the Park over the years; Tommy Dickson, Jackie Milburn, Martin McGaughey and those who made up the team that won the second clean-sweep of trophies in 1962. The recent clean sweep team is also high in my list of the finest Linfield teams of all time, but being a blue fanatic I always say the greatest team I saw, was the team I saw last week- win, lose or draw!
However my favourite all time great was Tommy Leishman who led Linfield to the quarter final of the European Cup in 1966. Tommy epitomised the determination and fight required of a Linfield player and he demanded nothing less from the rest of the team. A tough tackling left half I remember his battles with John Colrain, a fellow Scot, who managed Glentoran during this time. Among my treasured possessions is a signed photograph of Tommy running on to the pitch at Windsor.
It was Tommy who also scored the best goal I ever saw at Windsor. It was against Distillery and he picked up the ball just inside the opposition’s half. He hit it with his left foot and it flew into the top of the net. A marvellous goal and against one of the best keepers in the league at the time, Mike Pinner, an Englishman who played 52 times for England Amateurs.
Being a successful team is all about quality players and the ability to find the net on a regular basis. The blues had always good players and I am glad the Club has taken steps to produce players from their own youth policy. You never know when another Peter Thompson is waiting for his chance.