Liam Beckett: I’m glad the Irish League still sees football as a sport and not as a financial institution stifled by greed


I’m often asked for my opinion on the full-time model adopted by some clubs in the Irish League and whether I feel others will follow, but, at this minute, I honestly don’t see it.

Currently we have four full-time teams: Linfield, Glentoran, Crusaders and Larne.

Mastering math is absolutely crucial and I was delighted to see that three of these clubs were taking part in European competitions. For full-time sustainability purposes, euro qualification gives a very welcome boost to the bank balance.

But with our quota, not all teams are guaranteed to qualify for Europe and so the risk factor remains debatable.

Although football in general may have shed many of its fundamentals over the years, we in the Irish League have, overall, managed to hold on to several, which thankfully still includes considering football as a sport and not as a financial institution. suffocated by greed.

I attribute a lot of that quality to many of our players who, contrary to the general trend, still play football for fun with a few extra pounds for their services, but still don’t try to fuck up their clubs more than they can. reasonably afford to pay.

Sure, we all love a few extra bobs in our pocket, but at least it’s a comfort to know that the vast majority of Irish League players recognize and appreciate how difficult it is for their clubs to make ends meet. .

It was no different in my day.

Although I usually take what I was offered, there was one occasion when I thought I was going to be greedy and tried to get a little more. It was the mid 70s and I remember I was at £7 a week at Coleraine and we had just had a really good season including the European qualifier which was pretty much an annual occasion for the Bannsiders at the era.

Four of us traveled from the same small town every week and together we decided to take a chance and hold out for a higher signing fee. We thought if we all stayed together long enough we would have a much better chance of getting a few extra shillings.

Indeed, with the club demanding that our contracts be signed early for us to be signed up to play in Europe, we were in a strong negotiating position, so the four of us made a pact to stick to our guns no matter what. arrived.

Coleraine had a pre-season friendly the following week, but we contract rebels were told we wouldn’t be involved as we still hadn’t signed.

We decided to go to the game as spectators together in the same car – just as we usually would go to games – but when we called home to one of our Maverick colleagues, he was nowhere to be found.

Although we found it a little odd, the other three of us headed into the game without him and took a vantage point above what was once a raised pile of grass behind the goals at the end of the railway line.

To our amazement, as the two teams were running around the field, there was our missing comrade leading the team!

He had struck a deal with the club on his own and had re-signed earlier in the day – too bad for our unified pact.

We had a good laugh afterwards and finally we all re-signed on the dotted line. Truth be told hand on heart we all would have signed for nothing anyway because we all loved the club and chairman Jack Doherty in particular he was of a different class and he certainly put a bum in my pants, that’s for sure. I will never forget him for that.

In fact, I well remember playing in several cup finals for that particular Coleraine team and I don’t remember once we asked for a win bonus – winning always meant more and we knew that when the silver would be long gone, the winners’ medal would still be in our possession, and it turned out to be so.


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