Linfield F.C.

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Full nameLinfield Football and Athletic Club
Nickname(s)The Blues
FoundedMarch 1886; 128 years ago
GroundWindsor Park, Belfast
Ground Capacity12,342 (domestic)
12,950 (international)
ChairmanJim Kerr
ManagerDavid Jeffrey
LeagueNIFL Premiership
WebsiteClub home page
Home colours
Away colours
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Full nameLinfield Football and Athletic Club
Nickname(s)The Blues
FoundedMarch 1886; 128 years ago
GroundWindsor Park, Belfast
Ground Capacity12,342 (domestic)
12,950 (international)
ChairmanJim Kerr
ManagerDavid Jeffrey
LeagueNIFL Premiership
WebsiteClub home page
Home colours
Away colours

Linfield Football and Athletic Club, commonly referred to simply as Linfield, is a semi-professional Northern Irish association football club playing in the NIFL Premiership - the top-flight of national football in Northern Ireland, and the second-oldest national league in the world after the Football League in England. The club's home ground is Windsor Park in south Belfast, which is also the home of the Northern Ireland international team. Linfield's main rivals are Glentoran, who play at the Oval in east Belfast. This rivalry is known as Belfast's Big Two. Traditionally, the two clubs play each other in the league on Boxing Day every year, with the match usually attracting the biggest league attendance of the season. The club's current manager is David Jeffrey, who has been at the helm since January 1997.

Linfield were inaugural winners of the league when it was formed in the 1890–91 season. They have gone on to win a record 51 Irish League championships - more than any other club by a considerable margin, with rivals Glentoran having the next highest tally of 23 league titles. Worldwide, the Blues have the second-highest number of national championships won, behind only Scottish giants Rangers who have won a world record 54 championships.[1] The club has never been relegated from the top-flight, and is one of only three clubs that have retained membership of the league since its formation in 1890, the others being Glentoran and Cliftonville. The club holds the record of most Irish Cup wins (42), and has achieved the double of winning the league and the national cup in the same season on 23 occasions – more than any other club in the world.[2] The club also holds the record of most Irish League Cup wins (9), and most County Antrim Shield wins (43). This trophy haul is the largest of any Northern Irish club and one of the largest worldwide, and makes Linfield the most successful club in the history of Northern Irish football.

The club's most recent silverware is the 2013–14 County Antrim Shield, which was won on 5 March 2014 by defeating Crusaders 4–1 on penalties following a 0–0 draw after extra time in the final.[3]


Formation and early years (1886–1918)[edit]

A public mural in Belfast depicting Linfield's contribution to the Northern Ireland football team, featuring Tommy Dickson, Joe Bambrick and Elisha Scott

Founded in March 1886 in Sandy Row in south Belfast by workers at the Ulster Spinning Company's Linfield Mill,[4] the team was originally known as Linfield Athletic Club and played on ground at the back of the mill known as the Meadow. However, success on the field meant that the club had to accommodate bigger crowds, so this brought about a move to Ulsterville Avenue in 1889, where the club stayed for five years before housing development on the ground in 1894 meant that the club had to move on once again. Between 1894 and 1897, Linfield played all of their home games at opponents' grounds until the president of the club, Robert Gibson – who had donated the Gibson Cup trophy to the Irish League for the championship – along with other club members eventually secured a ground lease at Myrtlefield in the Balmoral area of the city. However, this was another temporary home. The club stayed here until 1905.[5]

The numerous ground changes and the club's desire to have a permanent home with which to build an identity resulted in the purchase of a piece of land known as the 'bog meadows' just off lower Windsor Avenue on 1 October 1904. The club settled at this ground and it later became known as Windsor Park, the club's permanent home and host to international matches since its opening. The first game at Windsor took place on 29 August 1905, with Linfield playing out a 0–0 draw against Distillery in a friendly match arranged to officially commemorate the opening of the stadium.[6] The first competitive game played at the stadium took place just a few days later on 2 September 1905, and ended with a 1–0 win for Linfield over Glentoran – the other half of Belfast's Big Two – though Belfast Celtic were Linfield's main rivals at the time.[7] The club's first silverware at Windsor arrived in the 1906–07 season, with the club lifting both the Irish League Championship and the County Antrim Shield. This would be the first of a trio of league titles, with the 1907–08 and 1908–09 league titles to follow.

In 1915, the Irish League was suspended as a result of World War I. In its place, a temporary unofficial league known as the Belfast & District League was set up and ran for four seasons until the return of the Irish League in 1919. As this was an unofficial competition, any titles during this time are not counted as Irish League Championships.[8] Linfield won this competition twice, in 1915–16 along with the Irish Cup, and in 1917–18.

The team that lifted an unprecedented seven trophies in the 1921–22 season.

Two seven-trophy seasons (1922 & 1962)[edit]

In the 1921–22 season, the club achieved a clean sweep of all the domestic competitions they entered – the Irish League, Irish Cup, County Antrim Shield, Alhambra Cup, Belfast Charity Cup, Gold Cup and the City Cup.[9] The club followed this up the next season by winning a treble including the Irish League, Irish Cup and County Antrim Shield in 1922–23. In the 1930s, four more league titles arrived – in 1929–30, 1931–32, 1933–34 and 1934–35 – before the Irish League was once again suspended in 1940 as a result of the Second World War. Another temporary unofficial league was set up which was called the Northern Regional League. Linfield won this league three times – in 1942–43, 1944–45 and 1945–46. This league ran for seven seasons until the return of the Irish League once again in 1947. Belfast Celtic were the first champions of the league after its return in 1947–48. Since they had won the last five titles before the League was suspended in 1940, this was a record sixth consecutive Irish League Championship.

In 1962, forty years after Linfield's remarkable seven-trophy season, the club repeated the feat in the 1961–62 season under manager Isaac McDowell. They won another seven-trophy haul including the Irish League, Irish Cup, County Antrim Shield, Gold Cup, City Cup and the Ulster Cup.[10] They also won the short-lived North-South Cup that season but it was actually the 1960–61 competition. Fixture congestion had meant that the final could not be played before the end of the season, and so it was held back until the 1961–62 season. A commemorative event was held in April 2012, celebrating the 90th and 50th anniversaries of the 1921–22 and 1961–62 seven-trophy-winning teams.[11]

Attendance decline[edit]

Since the 1960s, Linfield's average attendance has fallen, as has the Irish League's overall. As a result, there are fewer competitions, with sponsorship deals for the remaining competitions becoming more difficult to acquire. Linfield have the highest average home attendance in the league – approximately 1,800. It is roughly twice as large as the league's average attendance overall, which has remained relatively steady at 800–900 spectators per game since the current league format began in 2008.[12] Attendances between Irish League clubs can vary by a considerable margin. Some league matches – particularly Big Two Derbies played on Boxing Day – can attract over 5,000 spectators. However, some matches at other Irish League clubs attract less than 100 spectators.[13] Linfield's attendance usually peaks for Irish Cup finals, with the 2006 final against rivals Glentoran being attended by 12,500 people. In comparison, from the 1910s up until the late 1960s cup finals regularly attracted 20,000 to 30,000 people, but attendances began to decline after the 1967 final. The 1954 final between Derry City and Glentoran (which included two replays) attracted an aggregate crowd of 91,000 over the three matches - an average of just over 30,000 per match,[14] but by 1971 the attendance had dropped to just 6,000.

A 2011 study conducted by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure estimated that only 4% of the adult population in Northern Ireland regularly attended matches once a month or more between 2011 and 2012.[15] The drop in attendances has been attributed to several factors including the Troubles, the interest in other sports including Rugby and Gaelic football, the withdrawal of Belfast Celtic and Derry City, the success of the English game overshadowing the Irish League, and the overall quality of the league dropping.[14][15][16][17] The deterioration of stadia and facilities has also had an effect, with Windsor Park as well as other stadia having their capacity artificially reduced to comply with health and safety legislation.[18] The current format of the two major European competitions which involve multiple qualifying rounds, and the introduction of the UEFA coefficient system has also meant that Irish League clubs are much less likely to meet the more illustrious clubs in Europe, matches that attracted bumper crowds in previous years. It is now extremely difficult for any Irish League club to progress further in either competition. In fact, Linfield have never gone beyond the second qualifying round of either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League in their current format.

Coyle's 31-trophy haul (1975–1996)[edit]

Following a spell in England playing for Sheffield Wednesday and Grimsby Town, Roy Coyle joined the club as player-manager, taking over the reigns from outgoing manager Billy Campbell.[19] After a tough start to his managerial career at the club, Coyle went on to become the most successful Linfield manager in history, winning numerous trophies during his time at Windsor Park. His first season in charge was without silverware. In fact, having been Irish Cup runners-up the previous season when Coleraine defeated the Blues 1–0 after two replays, on 10 April 1976 Linfield suffered one of the biggest upsets in Northern Irish football history when B Division club Carrick Rangers defeated the Blues 2–1 in the 1975–76 Irish Cup final. This giant-killing act in which a junior club defeated a senior club in the Irish Cup final had only happened twice before in the cup's history, and not since 1955 – 21 years earlier. The club stuck by Coyle however, and it was not long before he brought silverware to the club. His first honour arrived in the 1976–77 season in the form of the County Antrim Shield. However, the Blues suffered defeat in the Irish Cup final for the third consecutive season when they once again lost out against Coleraine – losing 4–1. The 1977–78 season saw the club win an Irish League, Irish Cup and Ulster Cup treble. Runners-up in the last three Irish Cup finals, this time they were not to be denied. A 3–1 victory over Ballymena United secured the club's third trophy of the season.

Coyle retired from playing duties in 1980, but continued as manager. In 1982, future manager David Jeffrey joined the club following a spell in the Manchester United youth team and played for Coyle under many of his trophy successes, captaining the side for much of that time. One of Coyle's biggest achievements as manager was leading the club to six consecutive league titles from 1981–82 to 1986–87, equalling the record for consecutive titles which was set by Belfast Celtic in 1947–48. His final honour as Linfield manager was the Gold Cup in 1989–90. During his time at the club he had amassed 10 Irish League titles, 3 Irish Cups, 7 Gold Cups, 4 Ulster Cups, 5 County Antrim Shields, the Irish League Cup, and the Tyler Cup – 31 major honours in total. Coyle left the club in April 1990.[20] He became Ards manager for a short spell until 1991, before leaving to manage Derry City for two years. In 1993, he returned for a second stint as Ards manager where he was reunited with his former player David Jeffrey, who had left Linfield a year earlier. Coyle would later go on to manage Linfield's rivals Glentoran after leaving Ards in 1997, lifting a further 16 trophies with the Glens in just over eight years, until he left in 2006.

Eric Bowyer was appointed as Coyle's replacement in 1990, but it was an unsuccessful reign that only lasted for two years until he was sacked. Next into the managerial hot seat was Trevor Anderson, who took over in 1992. Anderson brought more silverware to the club during his five years in charge, including 2 Irish League titles and 2 Irish Cups. His reign lasted until he resigned in January 1997 to become Director of Football at Newry Town.

David Jeffrey has been Linfield manager since January 1997, winning a record-equalling 31 major honours during that time.

The Jeffrey reign (1997–present)[edit]

After retiring as a player in 1996 following a one-year spell at Larne, former Linfield captain David Jeffrey was appointed as Anderson's successor on 4 January 1997.[20] In his first full season in charge, he led the club to the County Antrim Shield and the Floodlit Cup. The 1997–98 League Cup was also lifted, courtesy of a 1–0 win over rivals Glentoran in the final. The following season was less successful, but the club still managed to retain the League Cup by defeating Glentoran in the final once more. The first league title under Jeffrey arrived in the 1999–2000 season, along with the club's third consecutive League Cup success – this time a 4–0 win over Coleraine in the final, which is still a joint-record scoreline in a League Cup final. The Blues retained the league title the following season, and also won the Irish FA Charity Shield with a 2–0 win over rivals Glentoran, as well as the County Antrim Shield. The 2001–02 season saw the club achieve a cup double, lifting both the Irish Cup and the League Cup. In 2005, the inauguration of the Setanta Cup meant that there would be a cross-border all-Ireland cup competition for the first time since the Tyler Cup ended in 1980–81. The Blues qualified as 2003–04 Irish Premier League champions, and started with a 2–1 defeat away to Longford Town. However, they recovered to reach the final against Shelbourne from the League of Ireland. Linfield were 3/1 underdogs going into the match against full-time opposition, but they went on to become inaugural winners of the competition, defeating Shelbourne 2–0 in the final thanks to first half goals from Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson. This earned the club 150,000 in prize money.[21] 44 years after the famous 1961–62 season in which the club lifted a remarkable seven trophies for a second time, the most successful season of Jeffrey's reign arrived in 2005–06. The Blues achieved a domestic clean sweep, winning the Irish Premier League, Irish Cup, Irish League Cup, and the County Antrim Shield. However, they failed to retain the Setanta Cup as defending champions when they were narrowly beaten 1–0 at Windsor Park in the semi-finals by eventual winners, Drogheda United.

In April 2010, former captain Noel Bailie made his 1,000th appearance for the club when he played in a 0–0 draw against Crusaders in the league.[22] A few days later, Linfield won their 49th league title after a 1–0 win against Cliftonville at Windsor Park.[23] Linfield secured their 50th league title on 26 April 2011 following a 4–0 win against Lisburn Distillery.[24] Bailie retired from football at the end of the season, aged 40. He made a total of 1,013 appearances for the club. Linfield then retired the number 11 shirt as a tribute to the long-serving player.[25] More success was to come the following season, when they won their third successive league title after defeating Portadown 2–1 on 7 April 2012, to clinch the league title for a record 51st time.[26] They also lifted the Irish Cup for a record 42nd time, defeating Crusaders 4–1 in the final. This was the club's sixth league and cup double in seven years.[27]

Linfield and Crusaders lining up before the 2013–14 County Antrim Shield final. Linfield would go on to win the Shield 4–1 on penalties.

The 2012–13 season saw a dramatic downturn on the pitch, culminating in a trophy-less season. In the Premiership, the Blues were off the pace for most of the season, and suffered a 3–1 home defeat to top-flight newcomers Ballinamallard United in October 2012,[28] amongst other home defeats to Crusaders and eventual champions Cliftonville, who were confirmed as such on 13 April 2013 after defeating the Blues 3–2 at Solitude.[29] Crusaders secured the runners-up place, leaving the Blues in a distant 3rd place – 29 points behind the champions. In the League Cup, they went out at the semi-final stage to Crusaders who won 1–0 at Windsor Park in December 2012.[30] In the Irish Cup, the Blues were knocked out with a 2–1 defeat to the same opponents in a fifth round replay after the first game ended 2–2. This was the club's first Irish Cup defeat in four years, and the first time in 16 years that they had lost their opening tie of the competition.[31] The closest the club came to silverware throughout the season was reaching the final of the County Antrim Shield, but they lost out 4–3 on penalties to Ballymena United.[32]

In the 2013 Setanta Sports Cup, the club was given a bye into the quarter-finals as a seeded club, but they lost both legs to Shamrock Rovers convincingly, losing the first leg 4–1 and the second leg 3–1 – a 7–2 defeat on aggregate.[33] When the 2014 competition was confirmed in December 2013, the winners prize money for the Cup was revealed to be €33,000 - a €117,000 decrease from the €150,000 prize money that the club had received for winning the inaugural competition in 2005. On 9 December 2013, the club released a statement confirming that they would not be entering the 2014 competition as a result of fixture scheduling, the reduced prize fund, and the difficulty for supporters to attend away games - but did not rule out further participation in the future.[34] League champions Cliftonville also withdrew from the competition for similar reasons, with the next two highest placed sides from the previous season's league table, Ballinamallard United and Coleraine, being drafted in as replacements.[35]

On 15 February 2014, Jeffrey announced that he was stepping down as manager of Linfield at the end of the 2013–14 season, bringing an end to his trophy-laden reign after 17 years.[36] On 5 March 2014, the Blues lifted the County Antrim Shield for a record 43rd time by defeating Crusaders 4–1 on penalties following a 0–0 draw after extra time in the final.[3] This was a significant milestone for Jeffrey, as it was his 31st major honour as Linfield manager - equalling Roy Coyle's record which was set 24 years earlier.[20]

Big Two rivalry[edit]

Linfield's main rivals are Glentoran from east Belfast – a rivalry which is commonly known as Belfast's Big Two. However, this term did not always refer to Linfield and Glentoran. Up until 1949, the Big Two were considered to be Linfield and Belfast Celtic, as they had traditionally been the most successful teams in Northern Irish football. However, after Belfast Celtic left the Irish League in 1949, Glentoran became Linfield's biggest rivals.[37] The earliest recorded match between the two clubs was played on 1 October 1887 – just over a year after Linfield's formation. A friendly match played at King's Field, Westbourne in Ballymacarrett was won 3–1 by Linfield (then known as Linfield Athletic). The two teams played each other competitively for the first time in the inaugural Irish League season, with Linfield winning 7–0 at Musgrave Park on 18 October 1890, and 6–0 at Ulsterville Avenue on 21 March 1891. The first game at the Oval took place on 8 October 1892, and the first game at Windsor Park on 2 September 1905.

In 1941, during World War II, the Oval - including terraces, offices, kits and club records - was destroyed in a bombing raid on the nearby Harland & Wolff Shipyard. Glentoran approached Distillery to play at Grosvenor Park, which they did until the Oval was rebuilt in 1949, with help from other Irish League clubs, most notably Distillery and Cliftonville. Glentoran considered leaving senior football to become a junior club, but after borrowing kits from Distillery and Crusaders they continued to compete at Grosvenor. Out of 14 league games at Grosvenor Park however, they were only victorious over Linfield on one occasion.

Traditionally, the two clubs play each other in the league on Boxing Day every year, with the match usually attracting the biggest league attendance of the season. However, in 2009 the match was removed from the fixture list by the Irish Football Association due to crowd trouble at Windsor Park.[38] The match returned in 2011, and usually alternates venues between the Oval and Windsor Park each year.

Trophy dominance[edit]

The two clubs are placed first and second in numerous Northern Irish football records. The clubs have won more league titles, Irish Cups, and League Cups than any other clubs. Linfield lead the way in all three tallies, with 51 League titles, 42 Irish Cups and 9 League Cups to Glentoran's 23 league titles, 21 Irish Cups and 7 League Cups. Almost half (47%) of the 134 Irish Cup competitions to date have been won by one of the two clubs, with at least one of the clubs reaching the final in 87 (64.9%) of them, being victorious 63 times. The two clubs have met in 15 of those finals – making it the most common final. Linfield have won eight of the meetings to Glentoran's seven. The most recent meeting between the two clubs in the final occurred in 2006, when Linfield won 2–1 to lift the Cup for the 37th time. Roughly two thirds of all Irish League titles have been won by one of the Big Two. Of the 112 completed league seasons, the title has been won by one of the two clubs on 74 occasions (66.1% of them). They also make up two of the three clubs that have appeared in every season of the Irish League since its inception in 1890 - the other club being Cliftonville.

As of 21 February 2014, the two clubs have met 253 times in the Irish League, excluding unofficial wartime results between 1915–1919 (World War I) and 1940–1947 (World War II). Linfield have won on 112 occasions, with 71 Glentoran victories and 70 drawn matches. Linfield's record victory over their rivals is 8–0. This occurred on 21 November 1891, during the 1891–92 Irish League season.

Action from a Big Two Derby played at the Oval in February 2014. Linfield won the match 1–0.

Windsor Park[edit]

Windsor Park, the club's home since 1905.

Linfield's home ground is Windsor Park in south Belfast. It is the largest Association football stadium in Northern Ireland, with Glentoran's ground, the Oval, being the next largest. The governing body of Northern Irish football, the Irish Football Association, leases the ground for use by the Northern Ireland national football team. The club currently receives 15% of Northern Ireland international gate receipts as rent. This is controversial as rival Irish League clubs see this as giving Linfield an unfair advantage by allowing them to offer more attractive wages and have a larger squad than all of the other clubs.[39] In 2010, UEFA provided 500,000 towards substantial refurbishment of the stadium, to increase capacity and improve safety.[40]

In 2011, the Northern Ireland Executive allocated £138m for a major programme of stadium redevelopment throughout Northern Ireland, with £28m allocated to the redevelopment of Windsor Park into a brand new, 20,000 all-seater stadium.[41] In June 2012, more details of the stadium's redevelopment were released. The plan would see Windsor Park become an 18,000 all-seater stadium with a series of phased works intended to begin in the summer of 2013. This would see the demolition of both the East and South Stand structures, to be replaced by new purpose built stands that will partially enclose the stadium; complete renovation of the existing North and West Stands; and construction of both new conferencing facilities and a new headquarters facility for the IFA.[42]

In February 2013, planning permission for the redevelopment was granted, with the estimated cost of the project around £29.2 million, of which £25.2 million would come from government funding. It was planned for the work to begin in September 2013.[43] Two months later however, Crusaders began legal proceedings regarding the plans. They wanted the plans to be judicially reviewed, believing them to be against European Union competition laws and also a form of State aid to Linfield.[44] When Crusaders played Linfield at Windsor Park at the end of April, Crusaders officials were allegedly informed that they would not be welcome in the directors box or the boardroom during the game - an apparent reaction to Crusaders' legal challenge of the stadium redevelopment.[45] In a hearing that took place on 22 May 2013, Crusaders' request was granted. The judge decided that it was a possibility for the redevelopment to be classified as state aid towards Linfield. The aspect of the challenge concerning competition law however, was thrown out.[46]

In July 2013, Crusaders agreed to a possible settlement brought forward by the judicial review. The details of the settlement were not forthcoming, but Crusaders said that it had the "potential to benefit the entirety of the football family".[47] In September 2013, sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín said that she was still committed to making sure the redevelopment went ahead as scheduled, after previously stating that she would not sign off on the funding until the IFA sorted out the "governance issues" surrounding David Martin's return to the role of deputy president.[48] In December 2013, three months after the work was originally scheduled to begin, the redevelopment was finally given the green light, with the sports minister signing off on the funding of £31 million required to complete the project. Work is due to begin after the 2013–14 domestic season has finished.[49]

European record[edit]

As Northern Ireland's most dominant club side, Linfield have been regular campaigners in European football. The club first participated in European competition in 1959 against Göteborg in the 1959–60 European Cup.

In the first round of the 1961–62 European Cup, Linfield were drawn to face an East German team, Vorwärts. The away leg was played, which Linfield lost 3–0. However, Vorwärts were denied visas for the UK to play the second leg, and (similarly to Glenavon the previous season) travelling to play the game in a neutral country was not financially viable for Linfield. They were therefore forced to withdraw from the competition.[50]

Linfield's most notable achievement in Europe is reaching the quarter-finals of the 1966–67 European Cup. After beating Aris of Luxembourg and Vålerengen (now known as Vålerenga) of Norway they faced CSKA Red Flag (now known as CSKA Sofia) in the last eight. This resulted in a 2–2 draw at home and 1–0 defeat away.[51]

In the 1984–85 season, after overcoming Shamrock Rovers on away goals (the first and so far only series of meetings between the two Irish superpowers outside all-Ireland tournaments),[52] Linfield faced eventual semi-finalists Panathinaikos in the second round. After a 2–1 defeat away, Linfield drew 3-3 at Windsor Park on the return leg.[53]

The 1993–94 UEFA Champions League saw Linfield drawn with Dynamo Tbilisi of Georgia. After losing 3–2 on aggregate, they were reinstated when their opponents were expelled from the competition for alleged match fixing and paying the officials. Linfield faced Copenhagen in the first round proper. They won the first leg 3–0, but lost the second leg 4–0 after extra time. This proved costly, as victory would have meant a financially lucrative tie against eventual champions A.C. Milan in the next round.

The club then had to wait seven years to participate in the competition again, due to the format of the two European competitions being altered. The league's relatively low ranking in the UEFA coefficient system has meant that the club has entered in the early qualifying rounds of either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Cup/Europa League, with the second qualifying round being the furthest the club has progressed in either competition. In the 2012–13 UEFA Champions League, the Blues entered the competition in the first qualifying round, and defeated B36 Tórshavn 4–3 on penalties to progress to the second qualifying round, after both legs ended as 0–0 draws. This was the first time since the 1984–85 season (excluding their opponent's expulsion in 1993–94) that the club had won a tie in the competition. However, they were defeated 3–0 on aggregate in the next round by AEL Limassol.

The 2013–14 UEFA Europa League campaign started in record-breaking fashion. In July 2013, the club won 2–0 away from home against ÍF Fuglafjørður of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round. This was the Blues' first win in Europe since 2005, and their first away win in Europe since 1966, when they defeated Vålerengen 4–1 during their run to the quarter-finals of the 1966–67 European Cup. In the second leg at Windsor Park, the Blues won 3–0 to go through to the next round 5–0 on aggregate. This was the club's largest aggregate victory in a European tie since defeating Aris Bonnevoie 9–4 on aggregate in the first round of the 1966–67 European Cup. It was also the first time that a Northern Irish club had won both legs of a European tie in any competition. They followed this up in the next round by winning away from home again. Despite being massive underdogs for the tie, a 1–0 victory away to Xanthi of Greece made it three consecutive victories in Europe, without conceding a goal in the process - another first for the club. However, in the second leg at home they went down 2–1 after extra time, which eliminated them on the away goals rule.

Record summary[edit]

1959–60European CupPRSweden Göteborg2–11–63–7
1961–62European CupPREast Germany Vorwärts Berlinw/o0–30–3
1962–63European Cup1RDenmark Esbjerg1–20–01–2
1963–64European Cup Winners' Cup2RTurkey Fenerbahçe2–01–43–4
1966–67European Cup1RLuxembourg Aris6–13–39–4
2RNorway Vålerengen1–14–15–2
QFBulgaria CSKA Red Flag2–20–12–3
1967–68Inter-Cities Fairs Cup1REast Germany Lokomotive Leipzig1–01–52–5
1968–69Inter-Cities Fairs Cup1RPortugal Vitória de Setúbal1–30–31–6
1969–70European Cup1RSocialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Red Star Belgrade2–40–82–12
1970–71European Cup Winners' Cup1REngland Manchester City2–10–12–2(a)
1971–72European Cup1RBelgium Standard Liège2–30–22–5
1975–76European Cup1RNetherlands PSV Eindhoven1–20–81–10
1978–79European Cup1RNorway Lillestrøm0–00–10–1
1979–80European CupPRRepublic of Ireland Dundalk0–21–11–3
1980–81European Cup1RFrance Nantes0–10–20–3
1981–82UEFA Cup1RBelgium K.S.K. Beveren0–30–50–8
1982–83European Cup1RAlbania 17 Nëntori2–10–12–2(a)
1983–84European Cup1RPortugal Benfica2–30–32–6
1984–85European Cup1RRepublic of Ireland Shamrock Rovers0–01–11–1(a)
2RGreece Panathinaikos3–31–24–5
1985–86European Cup1RSwitzerland Servette2–21–23–4
1986–87European Cup1RNorway Rosenborg1–10–11–2
1987–88European Cup1RNorway Lillestrøm2–41–13–5
1988–89UEFA Cup1RFinland Turun Palloseura1–10–01–1(a)
1989–90European Cup1RSoviet Union Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk1–20–11–3
1993–94UEFA Champions LeaguePRGeorgia (country) Dinamo Tbilisi1–11–22–3
1RDenmark Copenhagen3–00–43–4
1994–95UEFA CupPRIceland FH3–10–13–2
1RDenmark Odense1–10–51–6
1995–96UEFA Cup Winners' CupQRUkraine Shakhtar Donetsk0–11–41–5
1998–99UEFA Cup1QRCyprus Omonia5–31–56–8
1999–00UEFA CupQRGeorgia (country) Lokomotivi Tbilisi1–10–11–2
2000–01UEFA Champions League1QRFinland Haka2–10–12–2(a)
2001–02UEFA Champions League1QRGeorgia (country) Torpedo Kutaisi0–00–10–1
2002–03UEFA CupQRNorway Stabæk1–10–41–5
2004–05UEFA Champions League1QRFinland HJK Helsinki0–10–10–2
2005–06UEFA Cup1QRLatvia Ventspils1–01–22–2(a)
2QRSweden Halmstad2–41–13–5
2006–07UEFA Champions League1QRSlovenia Gorica1–32–23–5
2007–08UEFA Champions League1QRSweden Elfsborg0–00–10–1
2008–09UEFA Champions League1QRCroatia Dinamo Zagreb0–21–11–3
2009–10UEFA Europa League1QRDenmark Randers0–30–40–7
2010–11UEFA Champions League2QRNorway Rosenborg0–00–20–2
2011–12UEFA Champions League2QRBelarus BATE Borisov1–10–21–3
2012–13UEFA Champions League1QRFaroe Islands B36 Tórshavn0–00–00–0 (4–3 p)
2QRCyprus AEL Limassol0–00–30–3
2013–14UEFA Europa League1QRFaroe Islands ÍF Fuglafjørður3–02–05–0
2QRGreece Skoda Xanthi1–21–02–2(a)

Key: PR - Preliminary round; QR - Qualifying round; 1QR/2QR - First/Second qualifying round; 1R/2R - First/Second round; QF - Quarter-final

Linfield withdrew from the competition after the away leg had been played.
Dinamo Tbilisi were later expelled from the competition, and Linfield were reinstated.

Overall record[edit]

As of 25 July 2013

European Cup/UEFA Champions League636223555112–57
Inter-Cities Fairs Cup/UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League2876152859–31
Cup Winner's Cup6204611–5

UEFA club ranking[edit]

Current ranking

As of the 2014 UEFA Rankings.[54]

276Estonia Levadia Tallinn4.575
277Republic of Macedonia Rabotnički4.550
278Northern Ireland Linfield4.475
279Malta Valletta4.466
280Slovenia Olimpija Ljubljana4.450

Ranking since 2010

2010RedDownArrow.svg 3090.574
2011RedDownArrow.svg 3101.699
2012Green-Up-Arrow.svg 2962.766
2013Green-Up-Arrow.svg 2723.866
2014RedDownArrow.svg 2784.475

First-team honours[edit]

Active competitions[edit]



Defunct competitions[edit]



Doubles and Trebles[edit]

Only Doubles including either the Irish Cup or the League Cup, or Trebles including both trophies are listed. Doubles or Trebles achieved with other trophies, particularly those prior to the inauguration of Northern Ireland's League Cup in 1986–87 are not listed. Most notably absent from the list are the trebles in 1922 and 1962, which were part of seven-trophy seasons but did not include the League Cup.[9][11]

3As part of a domestic treble. Also won the League Cup.
4Part of a domestic quadruple including the County Antrim Shield.

Reserve honours[edit]

Intermediate-level honours won by Linfield Swifts

Junior honours[edit]

† Won by Linfield II (reserve team)

‡ Won by Linfield Swifts (reserve team)

ƒ Won by Linfield Pirates (reserve team)

Sectarianism and violence[edit]

Linfield have in the past been regarded as a 'Protestant club'[55] and still draw the vast majority of their support from one side of the community. However, the squad itself is one of the most diverse in the Irish League[55] and Linfield manager David Jeffrey maintains that it is the players' desire to wear the famous blue shirt, not religious affiliation, which matters most.

The club has in the past been regarded as sectarian, both in respect of its alleged employment policy and of the behaviour of its fans.[56] This sectarian reputation is partly the result of the actions of fans who have a history of occasional anti-Catholic behaviour ranging from sectarian chanting on the terraces to outright violence.[57] Part of the problem has been attributed to Windsor Park's location in a part of Belfast that is predominantly Protestant.[58] A relatively small number of local Catholics played for the club during the Troubles,[59] which led to a controversial accusation that the club held a historical policy of not signing Catholic players.[60] However, the existence of such a policy has been disputed:

"Linfield's following has historically been drawn from the Protestant loyalist community, particularly in the greater Belfast area. That is a fact of life which cannot be disputed and, although in the past there have been accusations of sectarian bias such as not signing Roman Catholic players, contrary to opinion and myth, no ban was ever imposed. That even applied in the early stages, during the Second World War and from then there has been a plethora of all creeds and classes wearing the Blue jersey."

Malcolm Brodie[61]

Sectarian tensions have long been a cause of conflict at football matches in Northern Ireland, and crowd trouble occasionally marred games involving Linfield throughout the twentieth century.[62] In 1948, Belfast Celtic withdrew from the Irish League after years of sectarian crowd problems culminated in a Boxing Day match against Linfield at Windsor Park which ended in a pitch invasion and riot in which Belfast Celtic's Protestant centre forward, Jimmy Jones, suffered a broken leg.[62]

In the 1979–80 European Cup, Linfield were drawn to face Dundalk from the Republic of Ireland. In the first leg, which was played in Dundalk and ended in a 1–1 draw, crowd disturbance prompted UEFA to switch the second leg to the Netherlands. Linfield were held almost entirely accountable for the events, and were forced to pay Dundalk's costs for travelling to the neutral venue in Haarlem as well as £5,000 for damage done to Oriel Park. Dundalk were fined £870 for providing insufficient security at the match. Dundalk eventually won the match 2–0 to progress 3–1 on aggregate.[63] In the 1987–88 campaign, Linfield's home game against Lillestrøm was marred by missile throwing, resulting in UEFA sanctions which meant that the club had to play their next two home games in European competitions at Welsh club Wrexham in 1988–89 and 1989–90.

A 1997 match against Coleraine was abandoned when Linfield fans hurled bottles onto the pitch after two Linfield players were sent off.[64] In May 2005 there were disturbances in Dublin at the Setanta Cup final between Linfield and Shelbourne.[65] In the same month, Linfield fans were banned from travelling to The Oval for a match against Glentoran after disturbances involving both sets of fans the previous month. Glentoran denied this was the reason behind the ban, citing health and safety regulations that forced them to close the away stand as the reason behind it.[66] In 2008, three Linfield fans were charged in a Dublin court with public order offences at a Setanta Cup match against St Patrick's Athletic,[67] but were released. In November of the same year, Linfield player Conor Hagan was struck by a rocket that was fired from Cliftonville supporters in the crowd following Linfield's 2–1 defeat at the hands of Cliftonville,[68] and the following month riot police were called into Glentoran supporters in the Boxing Day match after Linfield had taken a 2–0 lead.[69]

The management of Linfield has attempted to reverse the stigma of negative press attached to the club. The club has moved forward in cooperation with the Irish Football Association (IFA) which has launched a campaign called "Give sectarianism the boot." It assisted a local Camogie team who needed space to train in 2005, and also built links with the Gaelic Athletic Association which has traditionally had little support from the Protestant community in Northern Ireland.[70] In 2006 FIFA President Sepp Blatter commended Linfield for their anti-racism.[71] A play dealing with the conflict between Linfield and Belfast Celtic, Lish and Gerry at the Shrine, was staged by the IFA at Windsor Park in October 2010, with the co-operation of the Linfield management.[72]

Since 2008, the number of incidents has decreased. However, in February 2014, Linfield were fined £3,000 and Cliftonville were fined £3,250 by the IFA following sectarian chanting from sections of both sets of supporters during a County Antrim Shield semi-final at Windsor Park in October 2013. Cliftonville's fine of an extra £250 came as a result of their fans causing an 'explosion' during the game.[73] Both clubs criticised the decision, and expressed their intent to appeal against the fines.[74] There was also crowd trouble at a league fixture between the clubs at Windsor Park in March 2014, with reports of missiles being thrown after the game. The Northern Ireland Football League condemned the actions of a "small minority" of supporters.[75]

In popular culture[edit]

The Northern Ireland comedy sketch show Dry Your Eyes featured a character called Derek, portrayed by Martin Reid, a fanatical fan of Linfield who is thrown into life-threatening situations such as aircraft hijackings and bank robberies. The character remains placid until the situation causes him inconvenience at which point he confronts the terrorists, hijackers etc., and while everyone else in the scene cowers in fear for their lives he responds to the demands of the villains with a catchphrase "Are ye by f***!" and then verbally scares them into surrender, thus saving the situation.[76]


Michael Gault – Linfield club captain since 2011. Gault has made over 450 appearances for the club since making his debut in 2002.

Current squad[edit]

As of 7 March 2014.[77]

Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

3Northern IrelandDFKyle McVey
4Northern IrelandMFMichael Gault (Captain)
5DFMark Haughey
6DFJimmy Callacher
7Northern IrelandFWAndrew Waterworth
8Northern IrelandMFPhilip Lowry
9Northern IrelandFWPeter Thompson
10Northern IrelandFWMichael Carvill
12DFBilly Joe Burns
14DFAaron Burns
15Northern IrelandDFSean Ward
16Northern IrelandDFMatthew Clarke
18WalesFWMatthew Tipton
19Northern IrelandGKRoss Glendinning
20Northern IrelandMFRobert Garrett
22Northern IrelandMFJamie Mulgrew
23Northern IrelandDFReece Glendinning
25Northern IrelandFWMark McAllister
26Northern IrelandMFIvan Sproule
31Northern IrelandDFNiall Quinn
32MFRoss Clarke
33Northern IrelandGKJonathan Tuffey

On loan[edit]

Note: Flags indicate national team as has been defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

1Northern IrelandGKAlan Blayney (on loan at Ards until end of 2013–14 season)
17MFJames Knowles (on loan at Ards until end of 2013–14 season)

Retired numbers[edit]

11 - Noel Bailie, Defender (1986–2011)

Club officials[edit]


Managerial history[edit]

1886–unknownTeam CommitteeA committee was responsible for the first team.
UnknownLincoln HydeDates unknown, was in charge for the 1932–33 season, possibly more.
UnknownTommy SloanDates unknown.
1939–1940Northern Ireland Billy McCleeryResigned due to World War I, and concentrated on his Cricket career. Would later manage the Irish League XI team which defeated the Football League 5–2 at Windsor Park in 1956.
1940–1943Northern Ireland Tommy Brolly
UnknownEngland Jack ChallinorDates unknown.
UnknownScotland John HuttonDates unknown.
1952–1953Scotland Tully Craig
UnknownScotland Gibby MackenzieDates unknown.
1957–1960England Jackie MilburnJoined as player-manager from Newcastle United.
1960–1962Scotland Isaac McDowellGuided the club to seven trophies in the 1961–62 season, before leaving to manage Glentoran the following season.
1962–1965Northern Ireland Tommy DicksonCaptain of the 1961–62 seven trophy winning team.
1965–1967Scotland Tommy LeishmanJoined as player-manager from Hibernian, before returning to Scotland two years later. Was named Ulster Footballer of the Year for 1965–66.
1967–1970Scotland Ewan FentonJoined from Limerick, before returning to the club after his departure in 1970.
1970–1971Northern Ireland Billy BinghamManaged Northern Ireland and Linfield simultaneously until leaving both posts in 1971. Would later return for a second spell as Northern Ireland manager in 1980.
1971–1972Northern Ireland Jimmy Hill
1972–1973Northern Ireland Sammy HattonPlayed in the 1961–62 seven trophy winning team.
1973–1974Scotland Billy Sinclair
1974–1975Northern Ireland Billy CampbellThe club's fifth different manager in five years
1975–1990Northern Ireland Roy CoyleWon a record-equalling six consecutive Irish League Championships. Joint-most successful manager of all time alongside David Jeffrey with 31 major honours as manager.
1990–1992Northern Ireland Eric Bowyer
1992–1997Northern Ireland Trevor AndersonResigned to become Director of Football at Newry Town.
1997–presentNorthern Ireland David JeffreyLongest serving manager in the club's history. Has so far won a total of 31 major honours as Linfield manager - a record shared with Roy Coyle.


  1. ^ An unofficial league which ran for four seasons between 1915 and 1919. It was set up while the Irish League was suspended as a result of World War I.
  2. ^ An unofficial league which ran for seven seasons between 1940 and 1947. It was set up while the Irish League was suspended as a result of World War II.
  3. ^ The 1960–61 North-South Cup was played to the Semi-final stage. However, due to fixture congestion the final had to be postponed until the 1961–62 season. The competition started in March 1961 and was completed in February 1962.


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External links[edit]