Obituary: Final whistle for football hero Alex Russell

Alex Russell.
Alex Russell.

A minute’s silence was held for a 91-year-old veteran sportsman who had a stand at Northern Ireland’s national stadium named after him.

Alex Russell died of heart failure on February 24 in Antrim Area Hospital, after a succession of health problems.

Born on January 18, 1923, he grew up in Kells, outside Ballymena, and later moved to Glengormley, where he remained until his death.

He began work as a coachbuilder in the early 1940s, and went on to work for Translink until eventually retiring from its York Street depot.

But it is his footballing prowess that truly marked him out.

Joining Cliftonville as goalkeeper in 1942, three years later he went on to sign for Linfield – the club with which he is indelibly associated.

He stood down as first-choice keeper in 1960 after more than 600 games, but went on to coach its reserve squad, as well as a stint training the first team too.

Mr Russell had also won a cap for Northern Ireland in a 1946 game against England.

So revered was he that in 2004 Windsor Park’s Kop Stand was re-christened the Alex Russell Stand in his honour (although it has since been renamed again).

On the day he died a minute’s silence was observed at a match against Glenavon, with players wearing black armbands in mourning.

His wife Sally died in 1995. He is survived by sons Alan and Ian, his elder brother Bob, and younger sister Meta.