William Irvine's family grateful for support after serious fall
The son of a former Northern Ireland centre forward who is recovering from serious head injuries has thanked the public for their messages of goodwill.
William Irvine (75), whom the Irish Football Association (IFA) welcomed to Windsor Park as a guest of honour 18 months ago, was admitted to Royal Preston hospital after falling down stairs at his home.
Mr Irvine, along with his wife and three sons, make regular visits from their home in Burnley to Carrickfergus in Co Antrim, where they still have family connections.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, one of Mr Irvine's three sons, Jonathan, said the family was grateful for all the messages of support they have received.
But he said his father still has a long road to travel to recovery.
He said: "Unfortunately my dad fell down some quite steep stairs almost a week ago and injured himself badly.
"He fractured his skull which led to a bleed on his brain and broke other bones in his face and shoulder blade as well.
"He is in the high dependency unit but is making slow progress so we have a long road to recovery ahead.
"One of the first things I did to check how his brain was working was to ask him where he was from and, quick as a flash, he said 'Northern Ireland'.
"Our connection to Northern Ireland and to our family in Carrickfergus is very important to us and we go over as often as we can, especially to see Northern Ireland play.
"In fact, the last time dad was in Windsor Park it was as a guest of honour of the president of the IFA along with Pat Jennings."
Irvine earned his first international cap for Northern Ireland in 1958, when he won a place in the schoolboy team that competed for the Victory Shield, five years before being selected for the under-23 side alongside his brother, Bobby.
His first call up to the senior team came in 1963 and he played a total of 23 times, scoring eight international goals.
Jonathan said the support and goodwill messages the family have received over the past week, including those from football enthusiasts in Northern Ireland, have been welcome.
"It's difficult for us as a family because he is in Preston, which is an hour away from us, but my mother Rita is with him and we are visiting him regularly," he added.
"He is on an upward recovery and we are thankful for everyone's love and best wishes we have received. It's been quite emotional to read the messages and see how well my dad is thought of."