MILK CUP FEATURE: Mr Milk Cup

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It was during a meeting one December evening in the upstairs lounge of Bertie Peacock’s bar that the idea of an international youth football tournament based in Coleraine took shape.

The idea had been proposed by local youth football coaches Jim Weir and Victor Leonard, and Bertie was a prominent advisor for the event, given his vast experience and involvement at the higher levels of football.

His presence as a respected international figure was crucial in establishing the tournament that is nowadays simply known as the Milk Cup. Sadly, Bertie died after a short illness in July 2004, just days before the Milk Cup tournament recommenced for that year. It was a terrible shock for his family and many close friends.

Dubbed the ‘Little Ant’ Peacock was a true giant of the game.

His career began with his home town club Coleraine and he had a brief stint at Belfast outfit Glentoran before joining Celtic in 1949.

He won Scottish League and Cup medals with the Glasgow giants and he also captained the club.

After his 11-year international career, he succeeded Peter Doherty as Northern Ireland manager in 1962 and a 12-year stint in charge of Coleraine followed.

He earned 31 caps for Northern Ireland and while managing his country in the 1960s, gave an international debut to George Best.

Peacock starred for the Northern Ireland team which made the last eight of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

His managerial career also included guiding his native Coleraine to their only Irish League title in 1974.

It was during his spell in Glasgow though that he made an impression on Sir Alex Ferguson.

“As a boy growing up in Glasgow I used to watch Bertie Peacock play for Celtic. He was one of my heroes,” said the United boss.

“He has done many wonderful things for football.

“It is through my friendship with Bertie that I became involved with the Milk Cup.”

Bertie’s standing in the game helped bring so many teams and football personalities to the north coast which he just loved.

Bertie was asked in an interview in 2003 what the tournament meant to him personally and he replied:

“It is always nice to bump into people who have been to watch it, or who have played in it.

“You can be anywhere in the world and meet someone who has been to the Milk Cup. That’s priceless!”