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Happy anniversary to THAT goal

By Steven Beacom

Published 05/09/2015

What a night: David Healy scores the goal that beat England
What a night: David Healy scores the goal that beat England
The team celebrate after the famous win
Wayne Rooney and Chris Baird
David Beckham and Aaron Hughes
Frank Lampard and Damien Johnson

For David Healy it seems just like yesterday. Yet come Monday night, it will be exactly 10 years since THAT goal.

You know the one...Healy's stunning strike to defeat a star-studded England side in a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.

A decade on in Northern Ireland people still come up to him on the streets, in shops and at football stadiums to talk to him about it.

In 50 years time it will, no doubt, be the same. It's one of those moments that grandchildren are told about.

Back in 2005, Northern Ireland sport didn't have too much to shout about on a world sporting scale.

Rory McIlroy wasn't winning major golf titles and Carl Frampton wasn't one of the most respected boxers.

There was great excitement that David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen were coming to town, but there wasn't too much hope that Lawrie Sanchez's side could beat them.

There was an ear-splitting, mind-blowing atmosphere though and Northern Ireland players committed like never before. The truth is England didn't know what hit them.

And then there was Healy, the country's greatest goalscorer, with a deadly aim and cool head.

Scoreless with 72 minutes gone. Healy takes a pass from Steven Davis and runs towards the Kop end lashing a right foot shot past the despairing dive of England goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Windsor erupted. So did the whole country watching on television. In that magical moment it was as if the world had stopped. Northern Irealnd celebrated.

King David had delivered for his loyal subjects.

He was a down to earth bloke from Killyleagh then and he still is. The goal never changed him, but it changed everything for Northern Ireland fans again. Suddenly they had hope again that big glory nights weren't just a thing of the past.

"I can't believe it is 10 years. To be honest it feels like it was just yesterday," Healy told me this week.

"I have seen the goal hundreds of times and I have to admit sometimes I get the DVD out and watch it with my son, Jude.

"When I watch it now it is not actually the goal that catches my eye. I look at the close-ups of the crowd in the Kop and see people ending up five rows down from where they started and the jubilation and disbelief in people's eyes.

"That night I remember the astonishing noise all around the stadium after the goal went in and now when I watch it is the reaction on people's faces that stands out.

"We went into that game with very few people giving us a chance, but every member of our team delivered which was crucial to the outcome."

On the goal that gave Northern Ireland their first victory over England since 1972, Healy says: "I knew exactly what I was going to do when I received the pass from Steven Davis.

"I had practised being in that position a million times as a kid and as a professional footballer. I had been doing it since I was eight years old in Killyleagh.

"I would always aim for the corner of the net in that situation. I didn't even have to think about it once I took control of the ball.

"It gives me huge pride to think I scored that goal. The game brought Belfast to a standstill and I know many other towns across Northern Ireland were celebrating too.

"It was a huge result, not just for Northern Ireland football, but the people of Northern Ireland in general.

"Beating England brought great satisfaction to everyone here. I think when any team or individual from Northern Ireland beats England in sport we enjoy it.

"It was extra special that all their big stars were playing. It wasn't as if we beat an understrength England side and, the thing is, we never really had any edge-of-the-seat moments. I wouldn't say we were comfortable but we weren't hanging on either,.

"And that night it was our fans who deserved it more than anyone. They had been let down enough in the past and I always think that night was for them.

"Looking back I believe it helped put the team on a new level with the supporters. Our fans have always been great supporting the team, but after that result we had more fans going to away games and it suddenly became harder to get tickets for home matches.

"It was as if that result helped re-connect the team with the fans and I do feel it has led to today's where matches at Windsor Park are generally full and so many people want a ticket."

So how did Healy, now a coach with the Irish FA, celebrate his most cherished goal? Out on the beer with the boys? Being carried shoulder high around Killyleagh? Well, not exactly.

"After matches the players would normally enjoy a few drinks but, on this occasion, the boys were so shell-shocked and exhausted that didn't really happen," recalled Healy.

"I actually went back to our team hotel in Templepatrick and went up to my room on my own and ordered a sandwich.

"The BBC had decided to re-run the full game late that night so I sat on my own in my hotel room watching the match as I had my sandwich.

"I wouldn't do the same again now that's for sure. I would definitely be out celebrating."

Even if he didn't change, I wondered if his life changed after scoring THAT goal.

"In the morning, flying back to England there were certainly a lot more people recognising me at the airport. I was on the front and back pages and, I suppose, more people realised who I was," he says, with that typical air of Healy restraint and modesty.

"Playing in games in England there were some boos from opposition fans but it was pantomine villain stuff than anything else.

"Did it change my life? I'm not sure about that.

"It made me more recognisable in Northern Ireland, that's for sure, and to this day people still remember the goal which is really nice."

Ten years on Healy, who gave the Northern Ireland public numerous other memorable nights with his goals, remains the reluctant hero.

"The whole national hero stuff embarrasses me," he says.

"All I ever wanted to do was to play and score goals for Northern Ireland and I felt honoured and privileged to do it. I'll never forget that winner against England though. That was dream come true stuff."

Belfast Telegraph

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