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Walter Bruce

A Glentoran legend, his two caps for Northern Ireland raise an interesting question – is that the longest gap between first and second caps ever?

Name: Walter Bruce
Born: 12 February 1938, Belfast
Died: 28 November 2015
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 11.07
Position: Inside-Forward

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 2 Full Caps (1960-1967); Irish League: 8 Caps (1958-1967).
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Irish League Champion 1963/64, 1966/67, 1967/68, 1969/70, Runner-Up 1959/60, 1970/71; Irish Cup Winner 1965/66, Runner-Up 1955/56, 1963/64, 1966/67; City Cup Winner 1964/65, 1966/67, 1969/70; Gold Cup Winner 1960/61, 1966/67, Runner-Up 1958/59, 1961/62, 1963/64, 1970/71; Ulster Cup Winner 1966/67, Runner-Up 1957/58, 1961/62, 1964/65; Co. Antrim Shield Runner-Up 1960/61, 1961/62, 1963/64; North-South Cup Runner-Up 1960/61.
Individual Awards: Ulster Footballer of the Year 1967.

Club Career:
FA Cup
East Belfast
(Irish Amateur League)
10(1)/  0
16(-)/  3
* all domestic games.

An east-Belfast boy, Walter Bruce began his playing career with the famous nursery club, Boyland, before joining Glentoran as a sixteen year-old in 1954. He stayed at the Oval for almost twenty years, brief stays with amateur side East Belfast and Detroit Cougars in the USA apart, picking up a total of eleven winner’s medals, as well as Inter-League and International honours.

Bruce broke into the Glentoran first team at the tail end of the 1955/56 season while still a teenager, and made just his fifth senior appearance in the Irish Cup Final second replay with Distillery. He finished on the end of a 1-0 defeat – it was to be the first of three Irish Cup runners-up medals in his long career.

In 1959 Bruce’s 19 goals earned him the Glentoran Player of the Year title; he was still just 21 years-old. The following year he won his first cap in a 5-2 Home Nations Championship defeat by Scotland. Also making his Irish bow in that game was Manchester United’s Jimmy Nicholson, a player whose career brought many more caps.

Having previously finished on the end of defeats in three finals, the 1960/61 season finally brought Bruce a winner’s medal, with victory over Linfield in the Gold Cup, although Linfield did exact revenge a week later in the Co. Antrim Shield final. The following season saw Linfield complete the clean-sweep, with Glentoran and Bruce on-hand to see them pick up the North-South Cup, Gold Cup, Ulster Cup and Co. Antrim Shield.

It would be a further two years before Bruce got his hands on another medal as he helped Glentoran to the first of his four Irish League titles. By this time he was no longer the free-scoring inside-forward of his youth, and was more usually to be found at wing-half. The 1965/66 season brought the long-awaited Irish Cup winner’s medal with a 2-0 defeat of Linfield avenging the earlier heartbreak.

1967 was perhaps the pinnacle of Bruce’s career, he captained Glentoran to another League title, also taking home City Cup, Gold Cup and Ulster Cup winner’s medals, was crowned Ulster Footballer of the Year, and six-and-a-half years after first being capped, made the Northern Ireland team for a 0-0 European Nations Cup Qualifier with Wales. The only blip on the season was yet another Irish Cup Final defeat, this time at the hands of Crusaders.

The summer of 1967 found the Glentoran squad travelling to North America, playing for Detroit Cougars in the inaugural United States Soccer Association season. Faced with teams representing cities from across the USA and Canada, their results against Sunderland, Wolves, Stoke City, Aberdeen, Hibernian, Dundee United, Shamrock Rovers, Cagliari (Italy), ADO Hague (Holland), Cerro (Uruguay), Bangu (Brazil) brought an admirable record of (W-D-L) 3-6-3.

Back on the domestic front, the 1967/68 season brought Bruce another League title, and a memorable European Cup tie with Benfica. The Portuguese side featured many world stars, including the peerless forward, Eusebio, and Glentoran were unlucky to exit the competition on away goals, after 1-1 home and 0-0 away results. Once again the 1968 summer months brought another trip to the USA as Bruce, along with Glens team-mate Barry Brown, re-signed for the Cougars then plying their trade in the new North American Soccer League.

From then on in Bruce’s Irish League career began to slow down. He did claim another Irish League title in 1970 before hanging up his boots in 1971. His total of 529 appearances puts him third in the all-time Glentoran standings, and his 140 goals has only been bettered by ten others at the Oval.

A fitter with STC through his playing days, Bruce would later open a newsagents on the Holywood Road and settle in Bangor, content to work on his golf swing. 

Walter Bruce passed away in November 2015 at the age of 77.

American Soccer Stats

Northern Ireland Cap Details:

09-11-1960 Scotland A L 2-5 BC
12-04-1967 Wales... H D 0-0 BC/ENCQ

Summary: 2/0. Won 0, Drew 1, lost 1.

Irish League Representative match Details:
12-11-1958 Football League A L 2-5
23-09-1959 Football League H L 0-5
12-10-1960 Football League A L 2-5
04-10-1961 Scottish League A L 0-7
15-04-1964 League of Ireland H D 2-2
28-10-1964 Football League H L 0-2
08-09-1965 Scottish League A L 2-6
22-03-1967 League of Ireland H W 3-1

Summary: 8/0. Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 6.