EURO 2016: Raymond has Northern Ireland kitted out for tilt at Euro glory

Harryville man Raymond Millar, who is the Northern Ireland kit man, with IFA President Jim Shaw, who is from Martinstown. INBT 47-183CS
Harryville man Raymond Millar, who is the Northern Ireland kit man, with IFA President Jim Shaw, who is from Martinstown. INBT 47-183CS

He’s the Ballymena man who’s responsible for ensuring that Northern Ireland look the part on and off the pitch at Euro 2016.

And no, we don’t mean manager Michael O’Neill or even skipper Steven Davis.

As kitman for the national team, former Harryville man Raymond Millar is one of the unsung heroes behind Northern Ireland’s fairytale qualification for France.

It’s certainly been quite a journey for Raymond, who describes himself as “born and reared on Queen Street” to performing his role on the international stage.

“I didn’t really play football at any great level,” Raymond told Times Sport.

“I kind of mucked around with a few teams - people would have maybe asked me would I do the kit and I would have done it but you’re talking about a situation where you walked in, threw a bag of kit on the floor because you would have been lucky if there were pegs in the changing rooms!

“A friend asked me if I would help out with the kit for the RUC and because it was Irish League football, in the old ‘B’ Division and it was that wee bit more professional than what I had done before.”

When an opportunity arose to look after the kit for Northern Ireland’s under-21 team, Raymond was approached and he performed that role before then senior manager Nigel Worthington asked him to perform the duties for other Northern Ireland under-age sides.

“When Derek McKinley retired, I applied for the full-time role of Kit and Equipment Officer and was successful in getting it.”

The countdown to preparing the kit for a major international tournament is a world away from Raymond’s humble beginnings in kit management and he is determined that no stone is left unturned in Northern Ireland’s preparations.

“We had two 40-foot lorries set off ahead of the travelling party, containing not only the kit but all sorts of gym gear and equipment, including 18 gym bikes, weights etc.

“Not counting the staff bags and kit bags, I checked in 101 items of kit and medical equipment but the airport staff were tremendous.

“Footballers maybe have a bit of a reputation for being a bit particular about their kit but I have to say, this Northern Ireland squad are pretty low-maintenance - if everything is there in the right sizes, they’re happy and that makes my life easier.

And while all eyes will be on what’s happening on the pitch, Raymond will be busily working away behind the scenes in an often unseen role.

“I remember a football manager, it might have been Ron Atkinson, being asked what would happen if he was sick on the day of a game. He said the assistant manager would take over his duties, or they would then pass down to one of the coaches.

“But he said if anything happens the kitman, we might as well go home because he’s the only one who knows where anything is!” laughs Raymond.