By Matthew Brown,
Monday, September 6th, 2010

From East Belfast to East London

In 1996 I was introduced to what would turn out to be the love of my life. Glentoran Football Club. I was merely approaching 6 years old and can remember very little about my first match, except sitting in the lower deck of the North Stand at Windsor Park one afternoon in May whilst everyone around me cheered with sheer joy. I also remember my uncle telling me before the kick off, during the warm up, that I should cheer when the Glens ran towards the North Stand when doing their running drills. One final thing I remember from that game is the unbelievable noise of “Oh ah Glen Little” which rang around the stadium after Glenn Little secured  himself a place in the history books with a goal which would crowd Glentoran Irish Cup champions. You can probably guess what my first match was. The 1996 Irish Cup final. Also known as the “Glen Little cup final.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

In just over a week from now I, at the age of 18, will be moving to London for university. Moving to such a huge city at a young age is both exciting and quite terrifying, but it is something I have longed to do. At university I shall be studying journalism. It has been my life ambition to become a sports journalist. At school and throughout my childhood right up to now I have loved football and every aspect of it. Anything that involved football I wanted to be involved in, it was simply a love of mine. However I was never very good at playing football, but always observed every minute of the 90. I was able to appreciate the fine passes, the blistering runs, the silky skills and the acrobatic saves from players performing at all levels. It was this, along with my ambition of writing, which made me want to become a sports journalist. If you can’t get paid for playing football, you might as well get paid for watching it!
I have grown up in a generation which has been spoilt. We have been spoilt with being able to watch any major football club throughout the world on our TV’s thanks to the likes of SKY. Growing up with a father who is a Scouser who moved to Belfast after being stationed here with the army during the troubles, I had it drummed into me from a young age that Liverpool was the team I should give my support to. This is exactly what I did. But first and foremost Glentoran are my club. I have been to European Cup semi finals at Anfield, I’ve witnessed world class players fight for the crown of European Champions right in front of my very eyes and it was a different experience altogether. I still retain though that nothing quite compares to that moment when an Alan Mannus parry fell to the feet of Chris Morgan and sent a green sea of Glentoran supporters into euphoria. I honestly don’t think I’ll experience another moment like that for as long as I live.

For kids in the 21st century it is all too easy to forget about your local side when you can watch world class overpaid footballers playing in the English Premier League on television, with the warmth of your own home, a comfy armchair and various camera angles at your disposal, but for me it has never been a competition. I have worked since the day and hour I turned 16, but my conditions of work (surprising I get to set conditions, I know) have always been straight forward – no Saturdays. This way I got to watch Glentoran every week without fail. Now that is me sacrificing money so that I can support my club and get that rush I get every week, no matter where it is we are playing. People of similar age to me tend to sit at home with Soccer Saturday on the TV rather than going and watching actual live football. The most frustrating thing about that is, 3pm kick offs don’t get shown in the UK, so they are actually watching someone tell them what the score in a football match is. Now that really is “Unbelievable Jeff!”

I have never had the chance to witness the total football of the 1980’s, the famous European ties before ridiculous seeding was introduced, but I still love Glentoran Football Club as much as the next person who did have the pleasure of witnessing the Jimmy Cleary’s of the world. In fact, it is those people who have stuck by Glentoran, despite watching the free-flowing football of the 80’s disappear, that I admire. It must’ve been hard going from Jimmy Cleary to Willo McDonagh in the space of 20 years.  What I have witnessed though is some absolutely amazing moments, such as the entire season in 2003. I know we were beaten in the Irish Cup final that year, but it still didn’t put a dampener on a season of sheer class. The Glenmen still packed out the Park Avenue that night, singing, dancing, lighting flares outside the old Cambridge Rooms. We were champions and had the most successful season in over a decade under our belts. Even the next season when we didn’t win the league but secured the Irish Cup, the Glentoran supporters still partied like never before. We had taken revenge on Coleraine and were making the Irish Cup our trophy. That win remains our last Irish Cup win though, after getting beat in the 2006 final against Linfield. A horrible season and a horrible occasion to top it off. I’ve never felt so depressed in all my life compared to what I did after that cup final.

Of course seasons like 2006 happen. There have been some horrible times following Glentoran. Getting beat 6-0 by your biggest rivals is bad enough, but getting beat 6-0 at home by a mid-table side in the league? That match against Coleraine was highly embarrassing. I stayed until the very last minute and I don’t know why. Believe it or not I actually think it was so I could clap Coleraine off the pitch. We got beat about 3 years ago away at Limavady on an absolutely soaking wet night. It was either a Tuesday or a Friday, my memory fails me, but we got beat 1-0 that night. I left the ground drenched from the rain, dirty from the mud surrounding the pitch and disheartened by the performance we gave on the pitch.
I’m sure we all have our own stories, our own tales of the good times and the bad times. Each of our stories will vary and I could go on all day about each memory I have. Many of them would involve Michael Halliday as a matter of fact, because a lot of them involve beating Linfield. There will always be those memories to take away with me and no matter where I go I will spread the word of Glentoran Football Club. On the 27th September I will walk into a bar in London and ask for Sky Sports to be put on so I can watch my football team. In that bar I shall tell people exactly who Glentoran are.

Whilst living in London, at 3pm every Saturday I will be using the superb twitter service (www.twitter.com/glentoran) to keep up to date with the latest score and action from every Glentoran match, I will be glued to BBC Radio Ulster like never before and Glentoran TV will be my saving grace, my way to watch Glentoran continue our excellent form.  I’ll be back to watch Glentoran as often as possible and I will still continue to write articles for the TMEN web site. Being in London doesn’t mean that all of my opinions disappear. Although you may notice my article getting a bit more professional due to the degree in journalism I shall be trying to achieve!
So , this Saturday I will be at my last Glentoran match for as long as it takes me to come back home again. Here’s hoping we can pick up all 3 points, keeping another clean sheet along the way and give me the perfect send off. Scott Young and the team are doing an excellent job which I hope will continue.
Most people spend a large chunk of their lives looking for their soul mate. I don’t need to, I’ve found mine, Glentoran Football Club and I bleed red, green and black.

You can take the boy out of East Belfast – but you can’t take the East Belfast out of the boy.



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