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I’ll miss reminiscing with my old pal Billy Bingham, says fellow Northern Ireland 1958 World Cup hero Peter McParland


World Cup heroes: Northern Ireland duo Billy Bingham and Peter McParland during training for the 1958 World Cup. Credit: Lars Falck

World Cup heroes: Northern Ireland duo Billy Bingham and Peter McParland during training for the 1958 World Cup. Credit: Lars Falck

World Cup heroes: Northern Ireland duo Billy Bingham and Peter McParland during training for the 1958 World Cup. Credit: Lars Falck

Peter McParland says he will miss walking along the Bournemouth seafront talking old times with his former Northern Ireland team-mate Billy Bingham.

The announcement of the death of 90-year-old Bingham after suffering from dementia means that McParland is the last surviving member of the 1958 World Cup squad that reached the quarter-finals in Sweden.

“His wife had a flat in Bournemouth and we would regularly meet up for a walk on the sands,” recalled 88-year-old McParland, who lives quietly in retirement on the south coast. “Billy liked to eat a big bun when we’d stop off for a coffee.

“He enjoyed several spells with Northern Ireland as a player and a manager but he particularly liked talking about our time together in the Fifties, especially the 1958 World Cup finals.

“I knew his health had declined and having lost many team-mates to the illness I know it’s a terrible way to go. It’s so sad.

“He was a great servant of Irish football and a good, bouncy little winger. In that ’58 team we had Danny (Blanchflower), Jimmy McIlroy and Bertie Peacock and their job was to give the ball to Billy for him to attack the byline and get crosses in for me at the back post.

“I was thinking about him the other day because I was watching the current Northern Ireland side and we simply don’t have lads like Billy who not just play for top sides, but were among the first names on the teamsheet on a Saturday.”

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Bingham played over 250 games for Sunderland before moving to Luton and later Everton, where he was part of the First Division title-winning squad of 1962-63.

But he had cut his teeth playing for Glentoran in the Irish League in the late 1940s.

“I sort of looked up to Billy a bit because he was one of the more senior members of the squad,” said McParland, who scored both goals for Aston Villa in their 1957 FA Cup final success. “I remember as a boy watching him play for Glentoran when they came down to Newry and you could tell even then that he was a special talent.

“A few years later I joined him in England and I once accidentally knocked him off the pitch, beyond the track and into the stand at Villa Park. Billy shouted, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ and I replied that we’re not friends now.

“It was something that (then Northern Ireland manager) Peter Doherty instilled in us when we played against club mates in the Home Internationals.

“Billy played in the 1959 FA Cup final for Luton and it was one of my regrets that I didn’t face him. We lost to Nottingham Forest in the semi-final when we should have beaten them. We often spoke about how it would have panned out.”

Bingham has a unique place in Northern Ireland football having been the only one to have played and managed the Green and White Army in World Cup finals. Apart from his 1958 heroics in all five of their games in the finals, he took Northern Ireland to the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals during two spells in charge spanning 1967 to 1993.

McParland believes Doherty’s managerial style influenced Bingham’s time at the helm.

“Billy and Peter had similar management styles,” he continued. “There’s no doubt Billy was influenced by Peter. They didn’t take any nonsense but the players would run through hot coals for them.

“Billy was always interested in the tactical side of the game. He would brag how he would go about getting crosses in to place on my head.

“He was one of the few to get a grip of George Best. He told me that he’d take him aside when the squad met up and remind him what was expected of him.

“He wanted the Belfast crowd to see him perform in the way they read about because Billy felt they deserved it.”

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