Name: J. Thomas Forde
Born: 14 March 1931, Belfast
Died: January 2012, Australia (aged 81)
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 12.00 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 4 Full Caps (1958-1960); Irish League: 7 Caps (1957-1961); South Australia Representative.
Club Honours: (with Ards) Irish League Champion 1957/58; Gold Cup Winner 1953/54; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1956/57; (with Distillery) Irish League Champion 1962/63; City Cup Winner 1962/63.
Teams ................. --Seasons-- Domestic Europe
Wolverhampton Wanderers 51/52 ....... 0/ 0
Ards................... 53/54-61/62 314/40 ...2/ 0
The rock at the back during the most successful spell in Ards' history, Tommy Forde had began his Irish League career as a centre-forward with Distillery, before earning a £5,000 move to Wolves in the summer of 1951 after just a handful of first-team games for The Whites. After only two months at Molineaux, Forde was back in the Irish League, signing for Glenavon, and returned to his trade as an upholsterer.
Ards manager, George Eastham's first signing in the summer of 1953, Forde made his debut as a forward, before switching to the half-back line. In his first season at Castlereagh Park Forde picked up a winner's medal in the Gold Cup, in 1957 a Co. Antrim Shield gong, and in 1958 the Holy Grail - the Irish League title, for the first, and so far only time, in Ards' history. He also began to to draw the attentions of the Irish League team selectors, and in 1957 won the first of seven inter-league caps, in a 2-1 defeat by the League of Ireland. Also a captain of the Irish League XI, Forde played right across the half-back line throughout his career.
In 1958 Peter Doherty awarded Forde an international call-up as stand-in for regular centre-half, Willie Cunningham. It proved an inauspicious debut, with Northern Ireland defeated 6-2 by Spain in Madrid. It would be two years before Forde added to his collection of caps, playing in all three of Northern Ireland's internationals through the autumn of 1960, matches that saw a total of fourteen goals conceded!
The inaugral winner of the Ards Player of the Year Award in 1959, Forde returned to Distillery in a £200 deal during the 1962 close-season. Never a regular back at Grosvenor, he did help the club to an Irish League title and City Cup success in his single season return.
Forde moved with his family to Australia in 1963 and continued his footballing career as player and coach with Enfield SC and Hellas. He also played for and coached South Australia at representative level and was elected to the Football Federation South Australia Hall of Fame in 2003. His sons and grandsons were also involved in the game as players, coaches and administrators and his granddaughter, Sarah, became a TV sports presenter.
Hugh Forde, Tommy's brother, was also a noted Irish League half-back with Ards, Glenavon and Distillery, skipper of the Northern Ireland Amateur team and three times Irish League representative.
Video produced by Tommy's granddaughter for his 80th birthday.
Northern Ireland Cap Details:
15-10-1958 Spain....... A L 2-6 FR
08-10-1960 England..... H L 2-5 BC
26-10-1960 West Germany H L 3-4 WCQ
09-11-1960 Scotland.... A L 2-5 BC
Summary: 4/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 1.
Irish FA Representative Appearance Details:
11-03-1959 British Army..... H L 2-4
Summary: 1/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 1.
Irish League Representative Appearance Details:
06-12-1956 Ireland.......... N D 3-3 (Hungarian Relief Fund)
22-04-1957 League of Ireland H L 1-2
09-10-1957 Scottish League.. A L 0-7
29-10-1958 League of Ireland H L 2-3
12-11-1959 Football League.. A L 2-5
12-10-1960 Football League.. A L 2-5
17-03-1961 League of Ireland A W 3-2
03-04-1961 League of Ireland H D 1-1