This month, we have the views of a slightly more 'mature' but still-distant exile, Linfield's very own diplomat in the Middle East: Lewis.
Name: Lewis Montgomery
Years in Exile: 10 years this time but spent the 80’s working in Saudi Arabia. Unlike some other exiles, I still have my home in N.I. (Londonderry) and I am home at least 3 times a year. When I finish work I will retire at home where my family all live and where of course my beloved Blues are.
What took you away from the Blues: Work, work and work again.
Describe your typical Saturday afternoon: Saturday is a work day for us in Bahrain so I get home around 5pm (3pm UK) turn on the computer and listen to Radio Ulster’s Saturday Sports Sound. If there is a really big game on TV I might go to our local Brit Club and watch that with my mates and follow Linfield’s progress on my mobile.
How do you follow Linfield’s progress: On the BBC N.I. website or if the Blues are not the commentary game I also run the “live updates” from the “Welcome to Linfield” website. This is a big change from my time in Saudi Arabia in the 80’s when I only got the scores on the BBC World Service Radio and had to wait for the Ulster to arrive to get the match report. My Father (GRHS) posted his Ulster to me first thing every Monday morning.
What do you miss most: Not being at the big games although I get to see most of the games v the glens in the league because I schedule my time at home to coincide with them. A couple of season’s ago I saw us beat them 3 times in the league and Setanta which sent me back to work a happy man.
How often do you get home to see the Blues: I am home at least 3 times a year and sometimes I get to take in 2-3 games each time. When I am home over the Christmas period I always go to the Boxing day game and when I am home in April/May I usually catch a couple of the league run in games, ICF and a Setanta game if I am lucky.
Favourite exiled moment: Winning the Setanta Cup. I was home for “black Saturday” when Morgan stole the league from us in the 93rd minute. I don’t think I ever left a game so gutted as that day (and that includes an 8-1 defeat at Windsor by the glens when I was only 14). When we came back to win the Setanta Cup it gave me and all Bluemen a great lift from what had been such a bitter disappointment.
Worst exiled moment: Getting the results through of the ICF replays in 1983 and 1985 when we lost to the glens each time. It just seemed like we were never going to end the hoodoo of not being able to beat them in an ICF. I had been at the 66 and 73 finals and I thought Coyle’s teams were more than capable of doing the business against the dark side but it wasn’t to be. God is good though and he spared me to see this hoodoo ended in 2006 when we beat the glens at Windsor.
Do the locals know of the Blues? My circle of expat friends certainly know about them as I wear my shirt very regularly especially at the football nights in the sports bars.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed about Linfield in recent times compared to when you lived there? The club has much more out-reach to the fans and community today. Back when I started supporting Linfield the Directors were all big shots and they took it for granted that the crowds would flock to the games out of their love for the club. With so many more distractions today, the club has got it right in encouraging the kids and the community to get behind it.
Which was your favourite Linfield team: 7 trophies of course but I have very fond memories of the Leishman sides, Roy Coyle’s 70’s and 80’s era and of course BDJ’s current era.
Favourite former player? Current player? Jackie Milburn was the best I ever saw play for us but the Duke was great for such a long time so I have to make it a tie. My favourite current player is Spike (sorry BlueReef). He has been invaluable to us and will be a hard act to follow. Mind you, Noel Baillie hasn’t done bad for us either.
Favourite local team? There are no local football clubs that I follow here in Bahrain. At home my local team up in Londonderry is Churchill United – the only junior club to have won both the IFA (sorry for swearing) Youth Cup and Junior Cup.
Cult hero? From the past it would have to be Billy Ferguson. He was Hon. President of our North Star BSC which a bunch of teenage supporters formed in 1966. Billy was Mr. Linfield and had a heart even bigger than Isaac Andrews! There have been many more that I could go on and on about as Linfield have had so many great players. But some just rise above the rest due to having that something special to offer and in Fergie’s case it was a love for and a dedication to, LFC.
Anti-hero? Sammy Pavis. Played for the glens (including the team that beat us 8-1 at Windsor) before he joined us in 1964 and many Bluemen never forgave him. He was just an out and out goal poacher and seldom scored from outside the box. He didn’t do too much running about or bringing other players into the game (ala Spike) but my God could he score goals.
Have you ever seen the Blues abroad, and if so, where: Dundalk 79 – I was there.
Would you move back home if you had the chance, and why (not): As I said, I will retire to Londonderry when I finally quit working. N.I. is the only place I want to live, despite the climate.
If you could have a word in DJ’s ear, what would it be: 1–learn how to rotate players and use your substitutes. You have the biggest squad of players I can remember at Windsor and the ones on the bench or in the stands are at the Park because you wanted them. So let them earn their wages BDJ.
2–Don’t overstay your welcome as manager. You have had the best rapport with the supporters of any manager in all the years I have been following the Blues. But even the great Roy Coyle stayed on too long and you want to leave as a hero big man, not being slagged off by the South Stand.
Linfield’s future is… This is a very topical question as there are several posts on the forum at present concerning how we go forward as a club if the IFA screw us over the contract for Windsor. If this can be sorted out we will continue to the dominant club in N.I. But I am worried about the IFA’s real intentions and there is very little trust about just now between us and the people in charge up in Windsor Avenue. I have said on the forum many times that we should be playing the top teams in the Eircom League instead of the junior clubs and village teams we have making up the numbers in the Irish League. If the IFA are really interested in the future of local senior football and not just in the national team, then they need to focus on getting proper competition and bringing the crowds back to games. I am not optimistic but I believe we will always be “the people“, or as oul Ernie “the Lone Ranger” used to say “we are the people the News of the World!