David Moyes: What David Healy achieved was superb
Manchester United manager David Moyes has described his former player David Healy as a "brilliant goalscorer and Northern Ireland great."
Taking time out before United's Premier League fixture with his old club Everton tonight, Moyes paid a warm tribute to the 34-year-old from Killyleagh who announced his retirement as a player earlier this week.
The legendary Healy, who scored a record breaking 36 times in 95 appearances for Northern Ireland, was signed from United and Sir Alex Ferguson by Moyes (right) in 2001 when he was the Preston boss for a fee of £1.5 million.
It proved a successful deal for both parties with Healy scoring the goals that took Preston into the Premier League play-offs, helping to establish Moyes as a young manager to watch.
Moyes recalled: "David was fantastic for us. We brought him in during the season when we were trying to get promoted. I remember phoning Sir Alex about him. I paid about £1.5million for him, which was quite a lot of money at that time.
"We were in the Championship and we signed him in January. We had about 20 games to go and he scored 10 goals for us. He was great. He got us to the play-off final when we lost to Bolton.
"He was a brilliant goalscorer. He could score from tight angles and possessed a real strength in his shooting for a small guy. We liked him. He was a great boy to work with. He had come from good stock at Manchester United.
"I have an affinity with Northern Ireland because my mother was from there and it was pleasing to see him go on to be a great for Northern Ireland as well as doing a good job for himself at different clubs in his career.
"In a difficult period for Northern Irish football he was the one who kept it going because he was able to get them goals in big games. What he did for Northern Ireland was remarkable."
The admiration is mutual. Healy sees Moyes as an inspirational figure with regards to coaching and would love to follow in his footsteps... the dream scenario for Killyleagh's favourite son would be to take charge of Northern Ireland one day, or even Manchester United!
Irish FA President Jim Shaw was another full of praise for Healy. He said: "Taking the leading goalscorer mark from 13 to 36, as David did, was incredible. I can never see that being repeated.
"I just wish we had another David Healy coming into view so we could start the process again. It is sad that he'll never play for Northern Ireland again but every player comes to an end.
"I was at his debut in Luxembourg in 2000 when he scored twice and saw him net his final international goal against Azerbaijan at Windsor Park last year.
"In between we had some wonderful nights when David's goals defeated big nations. In my opinion his best goal ever was in a 1-1 draw against Denmark at Windsor when he beat Peter Schmeichel from 40 yards.
"In my work with Uefa I met the Croatian striker Davor Suker a while ago and he was keen for me to pass on his best to David who had broken Suker's goals record in Euro qualifiers. David's a hero in Northern Ireland, but he's also respected further afield."
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin added: "David Healy is an inspirational figure, his exploits on the field will be remembered by fans both locally and across the globe."
Healy, of course, enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the fans.
Gary McAllister, spokesperson for the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Club (AONISC), said: "David Healy's contribution to the international team has been immense.
"Many of us felt that we would perhaps miss out on being part of a special era for Northern Ireland football, with the success of Billy Bingham's team of the 1980s having already passed.
"However, David Healy helped to deliver many golden moments for a new generation of fans and for that reason he will always be a hero. I'm sure every Northern Ireland fan will join me in saying: 'Thank You, David'."
Clifford Healy: We're just so proud of him
His father: David deserves a wee bit of credit. He worked hard to do what he did and couldn't wait to get that green shirt on his back and once he got it he was determined to keep it.
I always went to Windsor Park to support Northern Ireland and will continue to do so now even with David retired, but to see your son fulfilling his dream was special for me, my wife Irene, the whole family and our good friends.
David used to play out the back of our house all the time kicking a ball against a wall, left foot, right foot, always trying to make himself a better player.
It's funny now the only time a young lad plays football out the back is when Jude, David's boy, is over.
We travelled all around the world to watch Northern Ireland and David play and along the way we got to know some great people, be it other players, the fans or those in the media.
We're so proud of all of his achievements.
David's goals against teams like Sweden, Denmark and Spain were great but if I had to pick out my top two moments, they would be his first goal at Windsor against Yugoslavia and the one which beat England.
What a night that was. We hadn't defeated them for so long and there were men a lot older than me crying with joy in the stands.
It was amazing to think our son had played a part in it.
Steven Davis: He deserves recognition
Current Northern Ireland captain and former team-mate at Fulham and Rangers: It's sad to see David take the decision to retire. Not only did we play together for Northern Ireland, I also had the pleasure of playing with him at Fulham and Rangers and he is a close friend too.
I am disappointed for him that he didn't get to 100 caps. I think that would have been a fitting tribute to someone who possibly made the biggest individual impact on Northern Ireland football for many years.
He was a top player and he is a top person too.
When you look back to the European Championship campaign when he scored 13 goals, it was an unbelievable achievement.
To score two hat-tricks in one campaign was amazing in itself, but he just kept scoring goals and I don't think anyone from Northern Ireland will ever repeat that.
The goals he scored came out of nothing as well. Some of them weren't even half chances.
His goals made memories for a lot of people, both the fans and those he played with.
You can talk about the spectacular goals he scored, like the third one against Spain, but they were just the tip of the iceberg.
Even over the last couple of years when he wasn't playing a lot at club level, we all still felt that he had something to offer at international level and when he delivered the goal against Azerbaijan last year to get us a point it was just typical of him.
He deserves to be recognised in some sort of way and whatever is done it will be a nice reward for a truly great striker.
Sammy McIlroy: His record is phenomenal
The man who gave David Healy his Northern Ireland debut: He was fantastic for me when I was Northern Ireland manager. I'd already seen him playing for Manchester United's reserve team before I got the job and I knew that he had this great natural goalscoring ability.
I had no hesitation in giving him his first cap and he more than lived up to my expectations.
After his first two games against Luxembourg and Malta I knew there were sterner tests ahead, but I said at that time that one day he would be Northern Ireland's leading goalscorer and he proved me right.
You can't teach what he has in terms of a goalscorers instinct, he was born with it.
Northern Ireland has always struggled for goals, even in our glory days in the 1980s we won a lot of games 1-0, but he scored 36 goals which is phenomenal for someone from a small country like ours.
I don't think that will ever be surpassed and I don't think we will ever have another striker like him.
I hope we do, because it will mean that we are progressing, but I don't think anyone will ever match what David Healy has done for Northern Ireland.
Jim Magilton: A finisher to be feared
IFA Elite Performance Director and Healy's former Northern Ireland team-mate: I had the pleasure of seeing him come into the squad, I have watched his career every step of the way and he has been outstanding. That golden period when he scored 13 goals in the European Championships, every time the ball landed anywhere near him you felt it was going to end up in the net.
He is an example to all players and has been an outstanding servant.
I actually played for Ipswich in the game when he came off the bench at Old Trafford. He hit the bar and had that ball ended up in the back of the net it might have been totally different for him.
He was the worst trainer in history, but as a footballer when he crossed the white line he was exceptional – a great finisher.
Stephen Craigan: He put us on the football map
Former Northern Ireland team-mate of Healy: As much as the team did well in that period when we were beating countries like England, Spain, Sweden and Denmark, David helped more than anyone to put Northern Ireland on the football map by scoring all those goals.
During that spell you always felt that he could score a goal to either get us back into a game or to win it. For other players in the Northern Ireland set-up it was great for us to have him in the side, knowing if a chance came he'd take it. The goals were fantastic, but for me the best thing about David was his humility. He never changed from the first moment I met him to this day.
Recently, he was with myself and Stephen Robinson with the under-17 squad and he carried himself with that same relaxed presence he's always had.
Glenn Ferguson: A genuinely good guy
His former Northern Ireland team-mate and now Ballymena United manager: David Healy's record for Northern Ireland was astonishing.
He was such a top class finisher and what I loved about him was his ability to score from inside the box and outside the box.
His winner against England is legendary, but for me his greatest night was scoring the hat-trick to beat at Spain at Windsor. He was at an incredible level that evening.
Off the pitch, I got to know him well over the years and he really is a great bloke who never thought he was a big shot. I've known a few Northern Ireland players not in his league who thought they were something special because they'd won caps. Dave though was just a genuinely good guy who wanted to do well for the team.
Colin Murdock: He became a revelation
Made his international debut with Healy: I was aware of David from a young age at Manchester United – Eddie Coulter, the club's Northern Ireland scout, used to keep us in the loop in terms of the talent that was coming through.
We made our international debuts in the same game against Luxembourg and right from day one you knew he was going to be a special player for Northern Ireland.
When he pulled on the shirt he just became a revelation.
Everyone talks about the goal he scored against England, but the best one for me was his goal against Denmark and he seemed to just keep repeating that.
He never scored an ordinary goal. Even the night when I scored my only goal for Northern Ireland against Austria, from about three yards, he scored an absolute cracker.