Milk Cup adventure a big part of BB life

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The Milk Cup has provided many of the area’s most promising players with a first taste of high-profile competitive football down the decades.

To celebrate last week’s 2014 summer programme, we put the focus this week on a now-defunct aspect of Milk Cup football - the Northern Ireland Boys’ Brigade Association representative squads.

Pictures from the ‘Times’ archive cover a period in the 1990s when many faces subsequently familiar to followers of the Mid-Ulster or Irish League scenes were just starting out in the game.

It also handed Trevor Williamson, part of the current Portadown backroom staff, with a first taste of coaching.

Trevor’s playing career started out with his hometown club then included a move from Shamrock Park to the professional game in Scotland at Raith Rovers.

The winger suffered a severe leg injury in 1993 at Glenavon so took his first significant steps into coaching the following year at the Milk Cup.

The former Annaghmore Boys’ Brigade player had represented the Northern Ireland BB in the late 1980s then returned in 1994 as a coach.

“The Milk Cup was a brilliant experience as a player with the BB side in 1988 or 1989 along with other local names like Johnny Neill and Jason Gordon,” said Trevor. “I then got into coaching the squad in 1994 with Brian Nixon, a brother of Colin who went on to enjoy such a long career in the Irish League with Glentoran. “I was only about 23 years old but loved the whole experience.

“Looking at that photograph, I cannot believe how young I look, in fact, I think I look younger than Johnny Topley!

“Darragh Peden is also in that picture and we had some cracking players over those three years.

“Aaron Hughes played a year young as a striker but dropped back the next year to centre-back and was noticed playing against Newcastle United then, of course, got his move to Newcastle and was taking on Barcelona a few years later in the Champions’ League.

“Cullen Feeney and David Miskelly were also involved and both eventually signed for Portadown, although David was an outfield player back then on the left side of midfield.

“I also remember Glenn McCullough scoring a belter of a goal against Middlesborough.”

Noel Robinson - who enjoyed a treble-winning campaign at Loughgall and represented the Lakeview Park club in the top flight of the Irish League - was with the under 14s in 1992.

“Mervyn Torrens and Terry Moore were in charge of the NI Boys’ Brigade group back then and I loved it,” said Noel. “Mervyn treated every player like a son and was great at organising stuff behind the scenes, with Terry an international for Canada who played at Glentoran in the Irish League.

“Terry handled the coaching and had us so fit, with his training really good.

“I played right-back and we all had to go through the Battallion trials before making the final squad.

“I remember we played Everton at the Milk Cup and they had Michael Branch in the squad, who went on to play for the firsts.

“William Gillespie was from Markethill, then you had boys like Raymond Beattie, Johnny Turkington, Denny McConnell, Kyle Neill and Glenn McCullough.

“Colin Nixon signed for Glasgow Rangers after that tournament and played two years in the Milk Cup with them before coming back home to Glentoran.

“Glen Barr was a real shining star at that time.

“I shared a room with Kyle Neill, Colin Nixon and Keith Millar.

“The whole excitement of the week was really superb and having mates from the area helped us all settle away from home.

“Back then we knew each other so well from playing football at school, the BB and youth teams.”