Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Down Memory Lane: How Gerry Armstrong rocked the Kop to fulfil our dreams

Actor Justin Duff with Billy Bingham and members of his World Cup squad, Jim Platt, Martin O'Neill, Mal Donaghy and Sammy Nelson.
Actor Justin Duff with Billy Bingham and members of his World Cup squad, Jim Platt, Martin O'Neill, Mal Donaghy and Sammy Nelson.
Members of Northern Ireland's 1982 football team with Dana, recording the World Cup song "Yer Man".
Participation in the 1982 World Cup finals has heightened pride in Northern Ireland. Here Mrs. Dorothy McBride, a stitcher in Riverside Textiles, Antrim, works on a World Cup tea towel
Players and officials of the Northern Ireland World Cup squad leave Aldergrove to join up with the rest of their colleagues for intensive training at Brighton, before flying on to the finals in Spain. (From left): Johnny Jameson, Jim Cleary, John O'Neill, David Bowens, assistant secretary I.F.A, George Dunlop, Derek Wade, I.F.A international committee member, Derek McKinley, assistant physiotherapist, and Mal Donaghy.
Northern Ireland striker Billy Hamilton of Burnley (right) and team physio Jimmy McGregor of Manchester United, enjoy a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean waters which lap their headquarters near Valencia. Cool Hamilton now aims to make a splash in the all-important Group Five game against Honduras in Zaragoza on Monday night.
Northern Ireland's 1982 World Cup finals squad
Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside has some fun during a training session.
Northern Ireland skipper Martin O'Neill and his players listen to a training team talk. Standing along side O'Neill is Mal Donaghy and Noel Brotherston. Sitting - Tommy Cassidy, Bobby Campbell and Jim Platt
The Northern Ireland squad follow striker Gerry Armstrong in a conga-style routine in Spain during World Cup 1982.
The Northern Ireland squad in training during the World Cup finals in Spain 1982.
Norman Whiteside and Billy Hamilton put pressure on Yugoslavian defender Ivan Gudelj as he makes a back pass to his goalkeeper during Northern Ireland's first game in the World Cup, which ended in a scoreless draw.
Martin O'Neill accepts Luis Arconada's bannerette as referee Hector Ramirez of Mexico prepares to toss.
Gerry Armstrong (left) who was a constant thorn in the Spanish defence leaps high to contest the ball in the Spanish penalty area but is beaten by a head by Alonso.
Northern Ireland Gerry Armstrong shoots past the Spanish keeper Arconada and defenders Camacho and Alonso
Billy Hamilton leads the charge to congratulate Gerry Armstrong after his 47th minute goal which stunned 47,000 Spaniards into silence. Hamilton's cross created the opening for Armstrong to beat keeper Arconada and defenders Camacho and Alonso.
Northern Ireland's John McClelland celebrates the win over Spain with the Northern Ireland fans
Northern Ireland fans during the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.
Northern Ireland fans celebrate Northern Ireland's famous victory over Spain in the 1982 World Cup finals.
Northern Ireland heroes Billy Hamilton and Pat Jennings enjoy the victory over Spain in the 1982 World Cup finals.
John McClelland leading the Northern Irish celebrations in their relief at the final whistle after beating Spain.
Mal Donaghy, banned from tommorow's match against Austria, joined foreign pressmen behind the touchline barriers as the Northern Ireland squad worked on set-piece moves at today's training session.
Norman Whiteside showing some of his fighting spirit as he tackles back in defence against Austrian Gernot Jurtin.
Billy Hamilton heads Gerry Armstrong's cross into the Austrian net as Herbert Prohaska looks on helplessly.
Billy Hamilton and Gerry Armstrong, Northern Ireland World Cup goal heroes, congratulate each other after the 2-2 draw with Austria while Sammy Nelson (left) about to shake hands with Walter Schachner, the man whose two goals in Vienna recently caused a setback to Northern Ireland's hopes in the European Nations Cup.
Billy Bingham and Billy Hamilton jubilant after the Austria game in the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain
Norman Whiteside, seen going close against Honduras, might have been the youngest player in the World Cup but he showed great maturity in the excellent Northern Ireland set-up.
Enjoying the open-air night life at Alcoceber are recently engaged couple, Kenneth Harvey and Jennifer Jones, both from Omagh.
Taking a souvenir picture at Zaragoza is Mrs. Anne McClure, of Belfast. In the picture is her husband Alan, Adrian Moir, Belfast; Mervyn Jones, Finaghy, and David McIlrath and his wife Julie, Newtownabbey.
Mrs. Mandy McGorman, Dundonald, shows off her Northern Ireland colours at Valencia
Writing postcards are Richard Creighton, Sean Donnelly and Raymond Ferguson, all from Cookstown.
A colourful group of supporters from Monkstown with their banners at Zaragoza.
Sporting their sombreros at Zaragoza are Ken Webb, Rathcoole; Howard Allen, Lurgan; Peter Moore, Birmingham; Paul Colgan, Rathfern; and George Swift, Lurgan.
Billy Workman, Carrickfergus, shelters under a palm tree.
Bill Lawrence (left), of Cambridge, who during the World Cup will drive Northern Ireland supporters over 5,000 miles, with Cecil Freeman, of Lisburn, at Las Fuentes
Celebrating her 10th birthday in Spain is Celine Hampton, of Cotswold Avenue, Newtownbreda, with her father Rolly, mother Dorothy, sister Louise (7) and her friend, Gillian Duddleston (11). Mr. Hampton won their holiday in a World Cup draw organised by Ballynahinch Recreation Club.
Sheltering under his sombrero is Paul Duffin, Larne, along with Norman Redshaw and Gordon Ballantyne, also from Larne.
Two former Belfast men now working in New York, Nelson Gaw, from Sydenham, a barman in the Big Apple, and Kevin Massey, from the Shankill Road, a professional singer in the clubs around New York, living it up in Spain
A group of Northern Ireland supporters with the children of a Spanish family in Alcoceber who have adopted the Ulstermen and are now Irish supporters. The children are: Maria Angeles, Maria Victoria, Joaquin and Magdalena Bellver Fernandez. The fans are: Melvyn Purvis, Jim Kerr, Alan Baird, Billy Workman, Ian Downes, Brian Rea, Sam McGorman, Sam Torrens, Robin Alexander, Robert Watters, Gary Helm, Cecil Freeman and Bill Chaps.
Miss Susan Craven (19), a civil servant from Finaghy and Miss Helen Spratt (20), also from Finaghy, who works in a Belfast boutique, soak up the sun in Spain, after watching Northern Ireland's first three World Cup games
In the swimming pool at Las Fuentes are Northern Ireland fans Sean McGowan, Donegal; Gerry Wilson, Craigavon; and John Guiney, Craigavon.
Outside the shops at Valencia are Billy Rea of Dundonald, with his wife Linda, son Stephen (12), nephew David Cathcart (11), Dundonald.
Keeping cool at a beach bar are Jim Nixon and Sam Workman, both from Ballymena.
In the sun at Las Fuentes are Northern Ireland fans (from left): Alastair Patterson, Dungannon; Harold Ritchie, Cookstown; Harry Hetherington and Cyril Kerr, both of Dungannon.
Billy Huddleston and his wife Bertha, of Groomsport, in a happy mood at the Northern Ireland match in Valencia. Billy won two free World Cup tickets taking in all Northern Ireland matches, in a draw organised by Portadown Masonic Recreation Club, in which there were 60,000 subscribers
At Las Fuentes are (from left): Alan Morrow, Cherryvalley; Brian Rea, Braniel; Alan Baird, Dunmurray; and Sam McGorman, Dundonald
Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham and his Spain 1982 World Cup finals squad outside the Belfast Telegraph offices

There are moments in life that never fade from the memory – imprinted forever.

^^Click More Pictures to launch gallery

Where were you when President John F Kennedy was assassinated? Or Princess Diana’s fatal car crash in Paris?

The intimate details of the circumstances, the time, and the place cannot be erased. You remember them as if it had just happened yesterday. Sports fans have a plethora of them – those famous fights at the King’s Hall, Ireland’s triumphs at Lansdowne Road and Ravenhill, those dramatic All-Ireland finals at Croke Park, the Italians’ shock elimination from the 1958 World Cup at Windsor Park and that bitterly cold November night when Northern Ireland defeated Israel 1-0 to qualify for Spain 82 finals.

The visit of the Israelis for to-night’s friendly at Windsor Park will stir recollections of that historic occasion 28 years ago. More than 40,000 fans packed the stadium — what a comparison with today’s 14,000 imposed by Health And Safety restrictions. The victory ensured second place in the qualifying group, two points behind Scotland and one ahead of Portugal.

With Martin O’Neill, an inspirational captain, ruled out by a hamstring injury, Tommy Cassidy, celebrating his 30th birthday, replaced him. Everyone assumed that it would be a routine process to be one of the two teams reaching the finals as Israel were rated the group minnows although they had shocked Portugal 4-1, a result which helped Northern Ireland’s cause.

Not so the shrewd Billy Bingham who had carried out a meticulous assessment of Israel, who were coached by Englishman Jack Mansell.

“Don’t underestimate them,” was his stern simple message.

Windsor, with its vibrant crowd atmosphere, international tradition and heritage, became a cauldron of jubilation in the 30th minute with a roar heard in many parts of Belfast. Spectators suddenly realised they could be watching part of football history.

The late Noel Brotherston, who had played a major role in the 1980 British championship success, was fouled in a tackle from behind and a free-kick awarded.

Gerry Armstrong recalls: “We had worked repeatedly on that set piece during training. Noel gave the impression he would take the kick, but ran over the ball leaving Jimmy Nicholl to lob it into the box. Billy Hamilton headed it down to me. I pivoted and volleyed into the net.”

How appropriate that the goal was scored at the Spion Kop end as had all the others in the qualifying series. The terracing became a sea of waving flags and scarves as the sardine-packed fans chanted “Norn Ireland” “Norn Ireland”. Sweden 58 had been the glory era. Now Spain 82 loomed on the horizon.

There was, however, still a long way to go before that final whistle. Bingham, master tactician and motivator, opted for constant attack with the Israeli defence repeatedly pierced on the right flank by the pace, control, and flawless crosses from Brotherston and the overlapping of Jimmy Nicholl.

Nervous tension, not normally associated with Bingham’s teams, crept in towards the finish when Pat Jennings and Chris Nicholl hesitated going for the ball, an Israeli forward pounced only to fluff an equalising opportunity.

The danger had been averted. The big prize, the ultimate, World Cup Spain 82 was just around the corner.

Northern Ireland held out until the referee called a halt to ignite scenes of unrestrained euphoria.

In his book ‘Six Glorious Years’ Ronnie Hanna wrote: “I wasn’t aware of anyone leaving the stadium as the teams departed down the tunnel.

“The noise was terrific when Bingham and the players returned for the lap of honour. It was an opportunity for the team to thank supporters for the part they had played in helping Northern Ireland reach only their second World Cup.”

Players who had read about Sweden 58, who had listened to stories about Blanchflower, Peacock, Gregg, McIlroy and McParland, and had been inspired by them, were now part of another glorious chapter in Irish FA history.

Northern Ireland topped the Group Five finals table in Spain with four points; went through to the quarter-finals and held Austria to a 2-2 draw, but succumbed to France, just as they did in Sweden, 1958. Fate had struck again.

Spain 82 will always be remembered for Armstrong’s goal in the 1-0 victory over the host nation at Valencia – the night Northern Ireland streets were deserted – and his winner against Israel which put them through to the finals.

A dream had been realised as the squad portrayed a different image of Northern Ireland other than that of the bomb, bullet, murder and mayhem so often disseminated to the world in those troubled times.

Northern Ireland (v Israel, November 18,1981): Jennings (Arsenal), J Nicholl (Man United), Donaghy (Luton Town), McCreery (Tulsa Roughnecks), C Nicholl (Southampton), J O’Neill (Leicester City), Brotherston (Blackburn Rovers), Cassidy (Burnley), Armstrong (Watford), McIlroy (Man United), Hamilton (Burnley).

Qualifying Group Six Final Table: Scotland 11pts, Northern Ireland 9, Sweden 8, Portugal 7, Israel 5.

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