On this 10th anniversary of The Freddie Jardine Sports Therapy Suite being opened at Solitude, Cliftonville Football Club are pleased to once again pay tribute to our legendary former player, physio, Manager and President.
Though he passed away at the age of 94 in March 2018, Freddie’s name remains synonymous with Ireland’s Oldest Football Club thanks to his incredible 73 years of service in a multitude of roles.
While 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 50 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 being appointed Caretaker Manager for a brief spell during the 1984/85 season and serving as Club President until as recently as 2017, 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, while the Club has since introduced its own Merit Award in his name to recognise individuals who voluntarily provide outstanding contribution and service.
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.
On this very day back in 2010, meanwhile, the ceremony to mark the opening of The Freddie Jardine Suite concluded with the man himself being invited into the home dressing room to offer some words of inspiration to a team that had found itself in the slump of a worrying losing streak.
“Just go out there and put three or four goals past Ballymena” was his simple request – and doubles from both Chris and Ronan Scannell saw that his wish was granted ahead of Peter Hutton putting the icing on the cake with the Reds’ fifth.
We are grateful to have known Freddie, humbled to have worked with him and proud to say that his synonymy with the Reds will ensure that his name will never be forgotten at Solitude.