Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Northern Ireland unlikely to reach World Cup, says Billy Hamilton

Billy Bingham and Billy Hamilton jubilant after the Austria game in the  1982 World Cup finals in Spain
Billy Bingham and Billy Hamilton jubilant after the Austria game in the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain
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.
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
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. 26/06/1982
Sheltering under his sombrero is Paul Duffin along with Norman Redshaw and Gordon Ballantyne from Larne. 26/06/1982
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.
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. 26/06/1982
Writing postcards are Richard Creighton, Sean Donnelly and Raymond Ferguson, all from Cookstown. 26/06/1982
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. 29/06/1982
Sporting their sombreros at Zaragoza are Ken Webb, Rathcoole; Howard Allen, Lurgan; Peter Moore, Birmingham; Paul Colgan, Rathfern; and George Swift, Lurgan. 26/06/1982
A colourful group of supporters from Monkstown with their banners at Zaragoza. 26/06/1982
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. 01/06/1982
Actor Justin Duff with Billy Bingham and members of his World Cup squad, Jim Platt, Martin O'Neill, Mal Donaghy and Sammy Nelson. 18/05/1982
Members of Northern Ireland's 1982 football team with Dana, recording the World Cup song "Yer Man". 22/02/1982

Billy Hamilton, one of Northern Ireland’s heroes from the World Cups in 1982 and 1986, has warned fans that qualifying for any major finals remains highly improbable.

Hamilton’s comments come in the wake of the draw for the 2014 World Cup finals which left Northern Ireland with a testing group that includes Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Euro 2008 semi-finalists Russia.

As well as that daunting pair, Northern Ireland will face testing trips to Israel and Azerbaijan with Luxembourg expected to be the whipping boys of the group.

Before attention switches to the quest to reach Brazil 2014, there are five matches remaining in the qualifying campaign for Euro 2012 and Northern Ireland are still in with a chance of making the championships in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

A win for Nigel Worthington’s men against the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park next Wednesday will see them leap into third place in their qualifying group, just two points behind second place Slovenia and with a game in hand.

The group table would have had an even more promising appearance if it wasn’t for a disastrous draw against next week’s opponents in Toftir last October.

However, Hamilton maintains that fans hoping to see Aaron Hughes leading out his country on international football’s biggest stages should be wary of burdening the players with unfair levels of expectation.

Northern Ireland are the smallest country to have reached multiple World Cups and with a relatively meagre population of just 1.8million, Hamilton feels that qualification will always represent a mammoth task.

The ex-Burnley frontman who won 41 international caps during the late 70s and early 80s, warned: “You’ve got to look at the size of the country and the population.

“That small number then gets smaller again when you think that young people growing up will choose to play either football, gaelic or rugby.

“It’s only going to be every 30 years or so that you get an exceptional squad capable of qualifying.

“We’ve had some terrific results recently, but Fifa have made it very hard for the smaller nations like ourselves to get in.”

Hamilton represented Northern Ireland at two of the country’s three World Cups and was one of the chief protagonists as Billy Bingham’s side shocked the world in 1982 by beating the host nation Spain.

The Bangor-man was permanently enshrined in Northern Ireland’s footballing folklore when he provided the assist for Gerry Armstrong to fire in the winner against the Spanish — and it’s a goal he never tires of viewing.

“I wish I had a fiver for every time I'd seen it since. To be honest, I was just trying to put the ball into a difficult area,” he said.

“The ‘keeper decided to come out and could only get a hand to it and then Gerry was able to thump it in first time.

“It wasn’t the most aesthetic goal you’ll ever see, but it was important.

“I suppose it’s probably the most remembered goal in Northern Ireland’s history.”

The unlikely strike ensured Northern Ireland reached the second round where Hamilton provided further memorable moments with a brace in a 2-2 draw against Austria.

A 4-1 defeat to France in the other second round game ended Northern Ireland’s progress, but the tournament remains the highlight of his career.

“It’s something you remember forever,” said Hamilton.

“I was lucky enough to score at Windsor Park on my debut for Northern Ireland in the old Home Championship and that was fantastic, but playing at the World Cup for your country is special.

“I’ll never forget that night. The stadium in Spain was one of the first with an electronic scoreboard that counted down the minutes that were left.

“I looked up after 78 and didn’t look again for what I thought was about 10 minutes and the clock said 79.

“It was unbelievable when the final whistle went.”

Hamilton believes if the current crop of internationals are to have any chance of ending our qualification drought and enjoying similar experiences, three points against the Faroes are a necessity.

“I’d love to see the boys get to a tournament again and if it’s going to be this one then the next game is a must win,” he said.

Having already dropped two precious qualifying points against the Faroes during this campaign, Nigel Worthington will surely be telling his charges the same.

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Billy Hamilton was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at Northern Ireland sponsors Vauxhall’s Big Pitch football match at Windsor Park. For more information go to www.facebook.com/vauxhallfootball

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