The Blues are also perceived as being the club of the establishment. Crusaders, Cliftonville and Glentoran all bear grudges against Linfield, either because of their financial advantage in owning the national stadium, because of religious division or simply long-term rivalry.
Though linked several controversial incidents down the decades – most notably in games involving teams from the Republic of Ireland – Linfield have been seeking to move on from the past. Windsor Park has undergone a £31 million renovation
Formed in 1886 by workers of the spinning mill of the same name, Linfield dominated the domestic game before World War I, winning the inaugural Irish League in 1891.
After partition, Linfield continued to enjoy periods of dominance, in the early 1930s and mid-1950s, prolific centre-forward Joe Bambrick and centre-half captain Tommy Hamill the star names either side of the war. For sheer longevity, no-one could beat ‘The Duke of Windsor’, striker Tommy Dickson, whose 660-game career ran from 1948 to 1965.
It was another iconic forward, one-time Newcastle United legend Jackie Milburn, who bagged both goals when Linfield made their European debut, a 2-1 win over IFK Göteborg in 1959. Though regular performers in Europe, Linfield have met with little success since, wins over Manchester City and FC Copenhagen the highlights in the course of 55 years.
The arrival of Roy Coyle as player-manager in 1975, despite a shock cup final defeat against lower-league Carrick Rangers a year later, ushered in silverware galore. Captained by later manager David Jeffrey, Linfield won ten titles, including six straight wins from 1982. Alongside him in defence was stalwart Noel Bailie, who would make over 1,000 appearances in all competitions.
Bailie captained for much of Jeffrey’s own 17-year managerial reign, earning a string of domestic doubles from 2006 to 2012. Midfielder Michael Gault and forward Peter Thompson provided the spark and firepower.
Both Coyle and Jeffrey led Linfield to 31 trophies each, Jeffrey missing out on the 2014 league title before bowing out. His replacement, former Linfield forward Warren Feeney, stepped in as player-manager in 2014-15 but was lured away to Newport a year later. In his place has come life-long Linfield fan – and all-time top Northern Ireland scorer – David Healy. In goal for 2016-17 is ex-Manchester United and Northern Ireland keeper Roy Carroll, ending his career with a first spell in the NIFL Premiership.
Linfield are based at Windsor Park, still undergoing renovation despite the fact that the £31-million revamp should have been ready by November 2015. For 2014-15, the club had to use Mourneview Park, Glenavon, for Europa League fixtures, and ongoing work on the West Stand meant that sector allocation for home and away supporters has not always been constant. For the visit of Cork City in July 2016, Linfield fans were placed in the North Stand, Cork’s in the South.
During the Windsor Park rebuild, there have been limited facilities. For ticket information, call the club secretary on +44 2890 244 198. Admission is around £10, £6 for under-18s.
In case of closure of the club shop at Windsor Park, souvenirs can be bought online.