Chapter Three | Cliftonville FC | The team that stayed

Words By: Benjamin Roberts Produced By: Philippe Fenner
November 15, 2017

Cliftonville FC is Ireland’s oldest football club. It was formed by John McAlery, the treasurer of the cricket club of the same name, who wrote article in the September 20th 1879 edition of the Belfast News Letter asking for ‘gentlemen desirous of becoming members’ to turn up for a practice session the following day.

Resisting the professionalism embraced by other Irish League clubs in the last decade of the 1800s, Cliftonville defiantly retained their amateur status until 1970 when, having finished bottom of the Irish League for eleven consecutive seasons, they finally decided to become a semi-professional outfit and pay their players.

1970 was an historically moment for another reason, it was to be the last time Cliftonville would play their cross-city rivals Linfield at their home ground of Solitude for nearly three decades.

From the formation of the club, to it’s role throughout the Troubles, this charts the history of Cliftonville, their flat out refusal to leave the Irish League, to the welcoming of Linfield FC decades later.

Cliftonville FC, the team that stayed.

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