23 July 2008

Gary Blackledge

Name: Gary Blackledge
Born: 8 April 1958, Belfast
Position: Forward

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 1 Under-21 Cap / 1 Goal (1978); Irish League: 2 Caps (1981-1982).
Club Honours: (with Portadown) Gold Cup Winner 1978/79; (with Glentoran) Irish League Champion 1980/81; Irish Cup Winner 1984/85; Ulster Cup Winner 1981/82, 1983/84; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1984/85, 1986/87; (with Glenavon) Irish League Cup Winner 1989/90; Floodlit Cup Winner 1988/89; (with Crusaders) Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1991/92.
Awards: NI FWA Player of the Year 1981; NI PFA Player of the Year 1981.

Club Career:
Teams
Seasons
Signed
Fee
League
FA Cup
Europe
Other
Manchester City
-
-
Youth
-
-
-
-
Portadown
75/76-78/79
-
Youth
-
-
-
-
Glentoran
78/79-87/88
Feb-79
£9,000
*219(32)/158
-
8(3)/2
-
Leeds United
-
Feb-82
Trial
0 (0)/  0
-
-
-
Chaumont
82/83
Aug-82
Loan
(France)
-
-
-
Glenavon
87/88-90/91
Jan-88
Free
* / 78
-
4(0)/0
-
Crusaders
91/92
Aug-91
Free
*16(10)/  4
-
-
-
Carrick Rangers
92/93
May-92
Free
*10 (1)/  2
-
-
-
H&W Welders
-
-
Free
-
-
-
-
TOTALS
-
£9,000
/242
-
12(3)/2
-
* all domestic games

Biography:
A free-scoring forward who made his name as a teenager with Portadown, Gary "Blackie" Blackledge's talents earned him a him a host of admirers and an Under-21 cap in 1978. He had the distinction of becoming Northern Ireland's first goalscorer at Under-21 level in a 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at Dalymount Park but, despite later inclusion in the squad under Billy Bingham, he never added Full honours to his collection.

Blackledge's goalscoring form with the Ports brought him a Gold Cup Winner's medal (Cliftonville defeated 2-1 after extra-time in the November 1978 Final) and made him ripe picking for Ronnie McFall's first signing as Glentoran manager a few months later. It took a £9,000 fee to pry the twenty-year-old from Shamrock Park, but Blackledge's early form at the Oval was patchy and he struggled to win over the club's fans.

Still, after that difficult start, the goals began to flow for Blackledge. He finished as the Irish League's topscorer and was named Northern Ireland Football Writers', PFA and Glentoran player of the year in 1981 as the Gibson Cup returned to the Oval after a four-year absence. There were two appearances for the Irish League (in a 1-0 defeat by the League of Ireland in 1981 and in a 3-3 draw with Yugoslav side, OFK Belgrade in 1982) and plenty more goals, but still a section of Glentoran fans weren't satisfied.

in 1982 it looked as though Blacklege would leave Glentoran behind. He had a trial at Leeds, scoring for them in a reserve match and a month later he scored twice in an impressive performance for the Glens in a 5-2 friendly defeat by the Yorkshire-club. A move to Elland Road never materialised but that summer it seemed likely that he would sign for arch-rivals, Linfield. Instead he joined French side Chaumont on loan and consequently missed out on a Glens' cup treble. He returned to the Oval after his year away and normal service was quickly resumed as he added further medals to his collection. Injuries and the emergence of other goalscoring talent however limited Blackledge's appearances in his last few seasons as a Glentoran player.

Mid-way through the 1987/88 season Blackledge returned to Mid-Ulster to sign for Glenavon. It was assumed he was all-but-finished at Irish League level, but clearly the 29 year-old Blackledge didn't think so! His goals helped fire the Lurgan Blues to one of the most successful periods in their history with perhaps his sweetest strike reserved for a 6-1 replay win over Linfield in the 1989 Budweiser Cup Final.

Once again Blackledge found himself over-shadowed by the emergence of a younger striking partnership - Ferguson and McBride - and consequently he missed out on Glenavon's 1990/91 trophy treble. On leaving Mourneview he was afforded one last day in the sun, rising from the bench to score for Crusaders in their 1992 Co. Antrim Shield Final win over Glenavon.

Towards the end of a career that brought him all the major medals the local game has to offer and five player of the month awards, Blackledge had brief spells at Carrick Rangers and with 'B' Division Harland & Wolff Welders. He had scored in excess of 300 career goals.

Northern Ireland Under-21 Cap Details:
08-03-1978 Rep. Ireland A D 1-1 FR 1 goal

Summary: 1/1. Won 0, Drew 1, Lost 0.

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