Linfield midfielder Jamie Mulgrew played for County Down at the Milk Cup in 2001 and 2003. He has enjoyed plenty of recent success at Windsor Park, and has appeared for Northern Ireland at Under-21 and Under-23 levels. Each year, Jamie goes to the Milk Cup wishing he was still eligible to play in the tournament…
In which team and what year/s did you play?
I played in both the Junior and Premier sections, in 2001 and 2003. At junior level, I was managed by Bobbie Reid and Ronnie Cromie. In the premier section, David Taylor and Sam Robinson were the management team.
What club side were you playing for when you were selected?
How did you do at the trials?
I remember that there were plenty of them – but that was a good thing in a way, because if you had a bad game then you could rectify it by playing better in the next trial. Fortunately I must have performed well each year as I got chosen twice. I was over the moon about that.
How did the team fare in the tournament?
Unfortunately in my first year playing in the tournament we did not play well. I will always remember playing a strong Middlesbrough team who walked all over us. It showed the quality of the teams in the Milk Cup. My second year was a bit better when we finished 13th. I got player of the tournament from our team (chosen by the committee) which was a great achievement for me.
What memories do you have of the Milk Cup and the north coast?
The excitement of just wanting the tournament to start after all the hard preparation that you have done I will remember. Also it was an amazing experience playing against some quality players and teams. It showed me as an individual the standard that you needed to meet. A great memory that I hold is of Brazil’s national team (who were in the Elite section), staying in our hotel. Brazilian legend Branco was with them and it was amazing to get to meet him and to get his autograph – which I still have.
Do you remember who you roomed with?
I can’t remember who I stayed with in my first year. I stayed with Billy Youle and Jonathan Rosson in my second year. I am still in contact with them.
Describe your footballing journey after the Milk Cup to the present day…
Playing in the Milk Cup was a wonderful experience and every player that has been involved in the tournament will say the same. It has played a big part in my career. I went on to play for Glentoran for three years, playing in the Foyle Cup, then getting to Steel and Sons cup final only to be beaten by Bangor in a replay. However, I did receive a winners medal in the George Wilson cup. From there I went to Linfield and I am now at the end of my third season. We have a great squad at Linfield, who all get on so well with each other and that is why we are so successful. At this moment in time, we have just won the league and cup double. I’ve signed a new 3-year contract and hope to stay in the team and be playing regularly. I want to help Linfield to continue to be a force in Ireland. Currently, I have two league winners medals, two Irish Cup and a CIS winners medal and a runners-up medal for the Setanta Cup. Hopefully that collection will get better in the coming years.
Greatest achievement in football to date?
Playing for my country is a massive achievement for any player, and I’m no different. I have played at Under 21 and 23 levels. Andrew Waterworth plays with me in those squads and we were team mates both years at the Milk Cup. Andrew and myself are still good friends.
Who’s the best player you have played with?
I would have to say Peter Thompson. He is someone who every manager and player would want in their team. His work rate, attitude and ability to finish is unreal.
Recently with the Northern Ireland Under 21’s we played Israel. There was a player called Maor Buzaglo. He was brilliant, and the skill and speed he possessed was class. With Linfield, we played a team called Elfsborg from Sweden. Current Swedish international Anders Svensson was playing. He was great player and his range of passing was excellent.
What advice would you give to those representing County Down at the Milk Cup?
Make sure you enjoy the occasion because the week will pass very quickly so it is important to enjoy every minute. Make sure you have a good attitude as there are so many scouts there to watch and it is a great opportunity for any player to get a chance.
How much of an impact did the competition have on you?
I will never forget the experience I had at the Milk Cup, I still go and watch and wish that I could still play in the tournament. In each game you are in the spotlight with scouts watching you from everywhere. That is what a player wants should they wish to become a full-time player.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself we don’t already know?
I have to bring my mum shopping for clothes all the time.
Describe your Milk Cup experience in one word…
Former County Down Milk Cup PRO Barry Greene spoke to Jamie Mulgrew in May 2008.