The devastating news that our former Director of Football, Stevie Milburn, has passed away marks a truly sad time in the history of Carryduff Colts.
He was instrumental in the establishment of the club back in the early days of 2003/04 but his lasting legacy will be our mini-football section – one of the best of any club. He was the man who laid the foundations and built it up to where it is today.
An Irish League striker of some repute, he represented Northern Ireland at Intermediate level and had a career spanning Glentoran, Crusaders and Bangor and also had notable spells with Brantwood and Dundela in the B Division.
I never came across anyone who could strike a ball as well as Stevie and he was proud of what he had achieved but more importantly – was keen to pass on his knowledge and experience to others. I remember him bringing me into his house to show me a clip from BBC Newsline of him scoring a goal in the Irish Cup. The clip lasted about 20 seconds, but he talked me through it for hours. As he had done the previous week, and the week before that!
I first met Stevie in the summer of 2002. A series of events were in motion that would lead to the formation of Carryduff Colts. I was at Lough Moss and overheard him asking a GAA coach if there were any soccer clubs in the area – which in itself amused me greatly. I approached him and told him of plans to set one up and Aaron’s signing was secured, but we had got much more besides.
During the first year, Stevie wasn’t able to attend games as he had a long standing Saturday golf commitment. But he was a football man and during the course of the 2003/04 season – our first in the South Belfast Youth League – he increasingly turned up at training and games.
Before the next season, I persuaded him to help out as a coach and he soon became the best signing Colts ever made.
Interest in the club grew quickly and by the following season we had more than 20 boys signed up. Stevie suggested we start a second team, which he would manage, and enter it into the mini-football tournament held weekly at the YMCA at Stranmillis.
His warm and engaging personality persuaded other parents to come on board both in coaching and administrative capacities. We were able to put some organisation around the club with the formation of its first committee in 2004 with Stevie as Child Protection Officer – as well as coach. From that year on, we created a new team at every subsequent age group and the club grew into what it is today.
Those early days were filled with conversations about taking the club forward and Stevie’s commitment to providing enjoyment and improving the boys as players shone through. His commitment and endeavour helped the club drive on, but always with his cheery demeanour and infectious laugh to the forefront.
By 2005-06 the club had around 80 members and four teams and Stevie decided to concentrate on developing the mini-football section, while at the same time continuing to contribute to the growth of the wider club. He knew many of the big names in Irish Football and secured their attendance at awards nights and persuaded them to come along and take occasional training sessions.
He became Director of Football and Friday nights were spent going around all of the mini-football groups. He made sure kids were being properly coached, he encouraged parents to get involved in the club and many of our coaches are part of the set-up as a result of his influence and powers of persuasion.
Saturdays were spent attending mini-football and SBYL games in the morning and when we moved into senior football, he could be found on the sidelines during the afternoons, encouraging many of the boys he had helped bring through the ranks.
Most of all he was driven by a commitment to make kids as good as they could be on and off the football pitch. And he had many notable achievements, including youngsters who went on to secure soccer scholarships in the USA or play at a higher level as a direct result of his encouragement and coaching.
He really didn’t care about winning, his mantra was ‘have fun’ and his buzz word was ‘technique’. It was all about development of coaches, players and teams. He became our first UEFA B coach in 2006 and anyone who ever had the privilege to be coached by him or watch him in action will remember how good he was. He loved the beautiful game and he wanted it played the right way – with style.
But that didn’t stop him enjoying the wins when they came. During the 2005/06 season, he famously managed the under-11s as they defeated Glentoran, Linfield and Cliftonville – who had the pick of the country – in the same season. It was some achievement.
Stevie loved Carryduff Colts and was selfless in his devotion. He was not interested in ego trips or self- promotion, all he wanted was what was best for the club.
It was with deep regret that he stood down from the club a few years ago due to health issues. It was the biggest loss this club ever suffered and we never managed to replace him. But his interest in the club never waned and he proudly told all who would listen about our successes and achievements.
We joked in the club news-sheet ‘The Colt’ back in 2005 that he was a legend and his new name was simply ‘The Ledge’. The joke turned into what people genuinely thought of him.
All who knew him will miss our great friend, our collaborator in building this club, our best ever coach, the architect of mini-football. Those of you who didn’t know him are today enjoying the fruits of his commitment and endeavour and it is important you are made aware of his legacy.
We all feel the sense of loss and are heartbroken but it is nothing to how much he will be missed by his loving family. We can only offer them our heartfelt condolence and let them know how much he meant to all of us.
Stevie Milburn – the legend – rest in peace