Back to 1990 then for this little blog post. As you may know I am a Glentoran supporter. Due to the fact that I have lived in England for 5 years, I obviously don’t go to see them a lot anymore, but there were times in the early 1990s that I used to go almost every week to the home matches and selected away matches. I was born in Newtownards, grew up in Bangor to parent s from Comber and East Belfast, so in theory I could have supported either Glentoran, Ards, Bangor or Comber Rec. I sided with my Dad’s club, Glentoran however. It was an easy choice to make and nothing to do with the fact they were a better side than the others or had enjoyed more fame over the years. If that had been the case (fame aside) and the fact I lived in Bangor, I’d have chosen to support Bangor FC – who at the time were much better (as this post will testify) and also situated very close to where I grew up in Marlo, Kilmaine, Bangor.
These were my main reasons for supporting Glentoran:
– My Da was from Glentoran Street
– My Great Granda gave me his Glentoran FC book when I was 8
– I often visited my Granny and cousins in East Belfast and liked looking out for the stadium, The Oval
– Two of my best mates Michael and Gavin from two doors down supported Glentoran FC
– Glentoran had a proud European home record (which has sadly since declined…)
I’m guessing that this match I’m writing about was my first ever Glentoran away match. Or maybe it was the second, as I may well have been to watch Linfield v. Glentoran or Crusaders v. Glentoran earlier that season. So we shall run with the fact that this was my first ever away match…for any team I’ve supported (except watching my Dad play…). The match was in the old Budweiser Cup and was against Bangor at Bangor’s wee stadium, Clandeboye Park. In those days football was very very different! There were no squad numbers, only 2 subs could be used, no sub goalkeepers, the goalkeepers could still pick the ball up from a back pass, there wasn’t much injury time (and certainly no indication from the referee or linesman of how long), there were no match tickets issued, the match programme was in blue and white, shinpads had only just become legal, and you were lucky if anybody took any photos, wrote a match report or even if the BBC or UTV would have filimed the match. The Budweiser Cup was a competition which doesn’t exist anymore, Glentoran were the holders at the time, and this was a knockout stage match, with the Irish League in those days not starting until November time, there used to be a possible 9 trophies for Glentoran to win during the season! Really!
Glentoran had won The Budweiser Cup in 1989/1990 season and were match favourites. Bangor however had a good home record and were one of the better sides in the division at the time (later that season they pipped the Glens to the European UEFA Cup place). As I used to all the time I went to the match with Michael and Gavin McClelland my two mates, plus their Dad Brian McClelland (who normally drove) and Gavin’s mate Wesley Irvine. It was normally the five of us, though sometimes my Dad, Joe Blair went, and also Philip McClelland, the younger McClelland brother. In those days it would be fair to say that the standard of Irish League football was much BETTER than it is now. Glentoran boasted three Northern Ireland internationals in Johnny Jameson, Billy Caskey and John Devine, plus a Canadian international in captain, Terry Moore. In fact two of those three (Jameson or Caskey and Moore) had been to the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals respectively. Glentoran had also just held the mighty Steaua Bucharest (Romanian Cup winners in 1990) to a splendid 1-1 draw at The Oval. This was thanks to a spirited performance and a superb late equaliser from Stephen Douglas, who stretched out to touch the ball past the keeper in a strong Steaua side. Steaua Bucharest had been in TWO European finals in the previous four seasons, so the magnitude of this draw should not be underestimated, nor should the good standard of Irish League football be overlooked. The match also had a “derby” feel to it, with The Oval and Clandeboye Park being only about 10 miles apart, even though Bangor’s big rivals were Ards and Glentoran’s big rivals were Linfield, there was still a high sense of pride surrounding the match. Brian gave us all a lift over to Clandeboye Park and we took our seats in the family stand, as Brian always liked to sit down. This was actually the “home” end, with the away Glentoran end being mainly terracing with a small, rusty stand with a few seats opposite. There would be no rivalry in the family stand anyway as even the Bangor hardcore had their own terraced section at “The Clandeboye Road End”.
It was the usual in them days to sneak two of us through the turnstile so as to only pay for one, this was normally me and Michael squeezed through for the cost of about £3 probably. I cannot remember the cost, I was only 10, and my parents or Brian would have paid, but it was very cheap. Kids these days perhaps don’t realise we used to sometimes “sneak” intill the stadiums, and in my Dad’s generation even jumping over fences to get in for free. In a 1990 Ulster there was more security, with the RUC (main Peeler service) being outside every stadium. At the time football hooliganism was still a major problem (with Linfield v. Donegal Celtic match the previous season being abandoned due to crowd trouble, Cliftonville FC were still not allowed to play home games v. Linfield, and in England Leeds fans had recently run riot in my current town of Bournemouth, wrecking the seafront, smashing up shops etc. during a vital Division Two match where Leeds United won 1-0 at AFC Bournemouth, relegating the Cherries and promoting themselves to the First Division), and of course there were bombs and shootings nearly every night in Northern Ireland! So we got inside the stadium before kick off, listened to the teams being announced, read a wee bit of the programme and got ready to watch Bangor FC (The Seagulls or The Seasiders) in yella taps and blue shorts play my team Glentoran FC (The Glens or The Cock n Hens) in our traditional green taps, black shorts and red trim. Football doesn’t get any better than this, its just a pity my memory has waded a wee bit!
For some reason I brought my old camera to this match!!! And boy I am so glad I did, as I don’t have any photos of supporting Glentoran or Northern Ireland from the era 1986 – 1996. It seems like the memory has been lost on me, partly due to lack of internet, reporting, photography, match videos and overall promotion of football in those days. How amazing that I took THREE photos that day and have them here now on the internet, as well as the newspaper cutting from that evening’s “Ireland’s Saturday Night” newspaper! These photos are truly vintage, and I’m so glad I have them, I wonder do Michael and Gavin have any vintage photos from those days of watching Glentoran. I’ll have to ask them next time! Check out the photo of George Neill (Glentoran’s number 2 for many a season) kicking the ball upfield on our near touchline, the one of Glentoran goalkeeper Dean Smyth (second choice behind Alan Paterson in those days) kicking the ball and the tilted shot from a 10 year old football fan supporting his wee team, with the shot being obscured by a post in the stand! I’ve also put in a photo of me around that time wearing my Glentoran shirt with my Uncle Jack. Not many photos remain! The buzz of football will never leave me.
The 90 minutes of the match itself, I can’t say I remember a lot about. But I’ll try, using the slight part of the ISN report as a guide…Glentoran were almost at full strength, but our ex-Northern Ireland midfielder Billy Caskey was always passionate, in fact in the modern day game, his discipline would probably have suffered to more yella and red cards. Anyway in this match, he was sent off for the second time in that month, having also seen red in the away match with Steaua Bucharest. His sending off was just after half time and this affected our team in the second half, I think we were already 1-0 down to a Bangor penalty, scored by their ace striker Barry MacCreadie. The second half, as Bangor skies got dark, MacCreadie notched his second, and I have a feeling our goal that day was a late consolation by Gary Hillis. I also seem to remember that our star striker at the time, Gary McCartney was out injured on this particular day, but I can’t be sure. Either way we were well beaten and the Bangor fans enjoyed their day, beating a “bigger” team and on they went into the next round of the Budweiser Cup. We were out, so time to concentrate on the League and Irish Cup I guess. In the end I think the Budweiser Cup final that season was between the two big mid-Ulster teams, Glenavon and Portadown, so even Bangor didn’t last the distance, despite this impressive win over my wee team.
That night I got the Ireland’s Saturday Night newspaper (a now sadly defunct Saturday sports paper in Northern Ireland) to see the title headline of “Glens Beached”. Fair enough I thought! We had lost to the seaside team and the seaside town of Bangor where there is a beach. I was also inrigued to learn that zooming in on the front page you could see us in the stand, in probably my first ever “media appearance”, its definitely me in that photo as I circled it that night and remembered where we sat. We had indeed been beached but I was in love with supporting my wee team Glentoran. In the time since then I’ve been to watch my football teams in many and various away matches, taking myself all over Northern Ireland with Glentoran I would say I’ve been to about 200 matches watching Glentoran in my life (and I have plans to do a European away match at some point, as long as its with Gavin and Michael!), all over England supporting Bournemouth (in my five years of living here I’ve been to more than 20 away matches, as well as over 100 home matches, all over Europe supporting Northern Ireland (I’ve been to almost 100 home matches and 14 away matches I think).
Just last week I took a trip down memory lane, when at home in Northern Ireland, I went with Gavin, Wesley Irvine, Brendan Burdoch (who also started going to Glentoran matches with us later on), Brian McClelland and my Dad BACK to Clandeboye Park to watch Bangor v. Glentoran again. This time 18 years on, the rules have changed slightly, the standard of Irish League football has gone down a wee bit, but the same passion and atmosphere is obvious. Last weekend we stood in the away end terrace, like none of us had changed since 1990. On that day revenge was sweet, Glentoran this time came from 1-0 down and a late goal from Dean Fitzgerald at the Silverstream End gave us a 2-1 away win. Why should we ever change what we enjoy in life? Here’s to that match in 1990, enjoy the memories!
Where – Clandeboye Park, Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland
What – Budweiser Cup First Round Knockout Match
When – Saturday 20th October 1990
Who Went – Jonny Blair, Wesley Irvine, Brian McClelland, Gavin McClelland, Michael McClelland
Final Score – Bangor 2-1 Glentoran
Trophies Glentoran could have won that season – European Cup Winners Cup, Smirnoff Irish League, The Gold Cup, The Bass Irish Cup, The Budweiser Cup, The Roadferry Cup, The County Antrim Shield, The Lombard Ulster Cup, The Charity Shield.