| 14.6°C Belfast

Billy Bingham took me from Mansfield to World Cup Finals in the space of a year: John McClelland

International football

Close

Former Northern Ireland captain John McClelland has fond memories of the late Billy Bingham

Former Northern Ireland captain John McClelland has fond memories of the late Billy Bingham

Former Northern Ireland captain John McClelland has fond memories of the late Billy Bingham

The 1982 World Cup story was the stuff of dreams for players from Northern Ireland but for defender John McClelland, it really was a remarkable rise to the big time.

The former Rangers ace was a defender for Bangor in Wales before Billy Bingham brought him to Mansfield Town and then onto the senior international stage.

The rest, you could say, is Northern Ireland sporting history.

“I was still relatively inexperienced in international football. Twelve months earlier I was playing in the Fourth Division, so a year later I was at the World Cup finals,” recalls the man who earned 53 caps and also featured in the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico.

“It’s 40 years ago this year and we can never have that camaraderie taken away from us.

“When we meet up again we are still friends to this day and share the stories and that’s Billy’s legacy.

“We shared the same hard physical training in Brighton, all the pain, glory and heartaches.”

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Close

Billy Bingham was a genius at organising his teams

Billy Bingham was a genius at organising his teams

Billy Bingham was a genius at organising his teams

McClelland hopes to attend this weekend’s anniversary bash which will be tinged with sadness after the loss of the Northern Ireland sporting icon Billy Bingham.

The stories will be flowing, remembering a great man who masterminded a sporting miracle in Valencia.

“Gerry Armstrong and Sammy Nelson had to go for urine tests after the game and we were stuck on a bus for a good while before we could go back to the hotel to celebrate,” remembered McClelland.

“We were bouncing on the bus but we were kept waiting as the lads were dehydrated.

“We were sitting around the table at the hotel and the boys said ‘John, your round’. Everyone charged the drinks to Billy Bingham and I was worried I would get into trouble!

“It was one of those nights when the drink was free flowing and no-one cared.”

McClelland, who won the First Division title with Leeds United in 1992, admits Bingham could be ruthless to get what he wanted.

“Billy could be quite hard as a manager, he could be brutal sometimes but in the end he’s made us all famous!,” he says.

“He could be ruthless and not always explain things like one time he didn’t tell me whether I was training with the first team or reserves at Mansfield.

“In some ways he was strange but tactically he was a genius at organising his teams and stopping opponents playing.

“With Northern Ireland you knew you would be in the squads unless you were badly injured so there was a little less tension among the players.

“We were more like a family in that sense, the same group of players turned up which built trust and togetherness.

“You could have a bad game and still believe you would be selected. They were special times.”



Top Videos



Privacy