Teams of the Decades [Timezone] [Fifty Plus Club] [Memorabilia Display] [The Whites]

1880's [1890's] [1900's] [1910+] [1920's] [1930's] [1940's] [1950's] [1960's] [1970's] [1980's] [1990's]

The first decade of the club's history coincided with the formative years of Irish football and so most of the fixtures were friendlies. There was no League Championship, so Distillery's few competitive fixtures were in knock-out competitions such as the Irish Cup, the F.A. Cup, the C.A.S. and the Belfast Charities Cup. They had 5 trophy wins --- the Irish Cup 1883/84, 1884/85, 1885/86, 1888/89 and the CAS 1888/89. The highspot of the decade was undoubtably winning the Irish Cup three times in a row, therefore it is no surprise that my selection for the team of the 1880's includes many players from those teams.

1   TOM MILLAR played for six seasons at the start of the decade. He started as an outfield player but soon became the established goalkeeper. He played ih the Irish  Cup winning teams of 1883/84 and 1884/85.

2   MATT WILSON known as ' Daddy ' was right-back for six seasons. He was a formidable team captain possessing a 15 inch long ginger beard. He also was part of the 1883/84 and 1885/86 Irish Cup teams and was capped three times for Ireland.

3   ROBERT WILSON played alongside his father, Matt, and took part in the hat-trick of Irish Cup wins. He joined Cliftonville in 1887/88 winning the Irish Cup with them that season and an Ireland cap.

4   BILLY CRONE could play at full-back as well as half-back. He made his debut in 1881 and played throughout the rest of the decade, winning medals in all five trophy wins. He was a stalwart of the club and won 12 Ireland caps.

5   BOB BAXTER was the founder of the cricket club and played at half-back for six seasons. He played one international for Ireland and won Irish Cup medals in 1883/84 and 1884/85. The last one saw him take the I.F.A. to court and win his case to obtain withheld medals.

6   TOM STEWART was a free-scoring forward in an era of six forwards on each team. He only played in the three seasons of the Irish Cup hat-trick, but a career-ending injury stopped him from playing in the third Final.

7   JAMES JOHNSTON played in many forward positions over six seasons. He won Irish Cup medals in 1883/84 and 1885/86 when he scored the only goal of that final.

8   OLPHIE STANFIELD was not yet a legendary figure. He joined from Genoa F.C. in 1886 and by the end of the decade had scored over 90 goals. In 1888/89 he scored hat-tricks in four consecutive games and collected medals in the Irish Cup and CAS. He was capped by Ireland 11 times in this period.

9   SAM JOHNSTON was a regular scorer in the first seven seasons. He played in the hat-trick of Irish Cup wins, scoring in the first two and gaining 4 Ireland caps. He joined Linfield in 1887/88.

10  BOB ' BALDY ' STEWART was a Scot who was a great goalscorer. He made his debut in 1886/87 and like his brother-in-law, Olphie Stanfield, he had scored over 90 goals by the end of the decade. He won Irish Cup and CAS medals in 1888/89 and once scored seven goals in a game.

11  JOHN McCLATCHEY played in the clubs first ever game on the left-wing and was the only person to play regularly throughout the entire decade. He took part in all five trophy wins, scoring two goals in the 1885/86 Irish Cup Final. Surprisingly he was never capped by Ireland.


Billy Galbraith who was the goalkeeper in the 1888/89 trophy wins

Robert 'Bruiser' Crone could play in the forward line as well as his normal full-back position -- he joined Middlesboro in 1890/91

Sammy Spencer was the first centre-half to score a hat-trick for the Whites

Alex Crawford was a key half-back in the 1888/89 trophy wins who also played for Cliftonville

Davy Brisby could play on both wings and once scored five goals in a game

John Condy was another winger who played in the first ever match.