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Farewell to a legend

Cliftonville Football Club today joined Freddie Jardine’s family, friends and loved ones in bidding a heartfelt farewell to our legendary former physiotherapist, who passed away last week at the age of 94.

A hugely respected figure throughout Irish League football, Freddie served his beloved Reds in a multitude of roles throughout an association that spanned an incredible 73 years and all at Solitude – where the Physiotherapy Suite is named in his honour – will miss his presence dearly.

Chairman Gerard Lawlor this afternoon delivered a eulogy at Freddie’s funeral service which took place at Belmont Presbyterian Church, ahead of a private family committal at Roselawn Crematorium, and, in the presence of a host of ex-Cliftonville players, Managers and backroom staff, Freddie’s grandchildren, Lynsay and Matthew, read the following poem:

Widely regarded as a grandfather to all, our Papa, put simply, was family and football

Small in stature but never in heart, of our lives you will always remain a huge part

Instead of feeling in despair, we look back fondly on memories shared

You’ve always been there for us from the very start, but the final whistle is blown and now we must part

A grandfather’s guidance cannot be bought, as we teach our children the lessons you taught

We’ll cherish the memories in our own journey’s through life, live and let live, letting go of the strife

While Solitude mourns the loss of a legend, your legacy there will never be questioned

Stood pitch-side for every match, wee Freddie the Physio, this was your patch

Never seeking the limelight in all your achievements, it was only ever the fuss that led to disagreements!

Boasting from Papa there was absolute zero, surely the ultimate Unsung Hero!

From player to President spanning 73 years, the modesty of our Papa simply brings us to tears

Putting others first in all that you did ensures your love in our hearts is never outbid

We’ve yet to meet a person that has a bad word to say, of you and your values, right up to today

Your infectious smile and your little peaked caps, it’s the smallest of things that will leave the biggest of gaps

We’ll always remember you and the life you have led, the perfect gentleman, never forgotten, our Papa, you Red!

Though he spent his youth cheering on Linfield alongside his father, there was never any doubting Freddie’s wholehearted dedication to Cliftonville from the moment he stepped through the door just after the end of the Second World War in 1945.

A broken leg sustained while playing at left-half for the Strollers against Sirocco Works four years later kept him sidelined for 12 months, during which time he successfully applied for a coaching role with the team.

Promotion to the Olympic backroom staff followed a decade later and, having undertaken physiotherapy examinations, Freddie eventually found himself charged with the task of heading up the Club’s medical team – a task he approached with characteristic enthusiasm and relish.

Combining the role with a similar position within the Northern Ireland youth set-up, where he tended to the likes of George Best and Pat Jennings, Freddie remained a familiar face at Cliftonville and contributed to all of the milestone moments of the last 40 years, from the iconic Irish Cup win of 1979 through to the famous back-to-back Premiership title successes of recent times.

Always a consummate professional in how he went about his business, his position with the Reds represented more than just a mere job to Freddie and that was never more clearly demonstrated than in July 2007 when, amid memorable celebrations on the pitch and in the dressing room after Cliftonville had overcome FC Dinaburg to record the Club’s first ever European victory, he was found crouched down in tears, overcome with the emotion of such a momentous occasion.

As well as serving as Club President until as recently as September of last year, Freddie’s commitments at Solitude were also recognised by bodies outside of Cliftonville and, amid a multitude of personal accolades, the inaugural BBC NI Unsung Hero was presented to him in December 2003 – less than a month after he had assisted captain Mickey Donnelly in lifting the League Cup following a penalty shoot-out defeat of Larne.

In 2013, he collected the Malcolm Brodie Merit Award for services to football at the Ulster Footballer of the Year gala and, the following year, the Lifetime Contribution honour at the Belfast City Council Sports Awards went Freddie’s way, with then Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir commenting: “Freddie represents the sort of local sports supporter and volunteer that we are trying to highlight. He has dedicated his life to a local club, contributing much to their success, but never seeking the spotlight.”

Freddie’s association with Cliftonville spanned more than half of the history of Ireland’s Oldest Football Club and his dedication was celebrated in the following mini-documentary dedicated to the man himself.

A few years earlier, he represented the Club at our ‘Evening of Legends’ in association with Carling, where presenter Jackie Fullerton posed the questions to Freddie and fellow top-table stars Mickey Donnelly and Liam Fleming.

Cliftonville Football Club extends deepest sympathies and condolences to Freddie’s friends and the entire Jardine family circle at this very difficult time. We are grateful to have known him, humbled to have worked with him and proud to say that his synonymy with the Reds will ensure that he will never be forgotten at Solitude. May he rest in peace.