World Cup hero Peter McParland has hailed the 'marvellous achievement' of the Northern Ireland women's team after their qualification for next year's European Championship finals.
McParland contacted the Belfast Telegraph to pass on congratulations to manager Kenny Shiels and his side for becoming the first women's squad from the country to reach a major tournament.
It was 63 years ago that McParland was one of the trailblazers for the Northern Ireland men's team when they first qualified for the World Cup, with Peter Doherty's players shocking the globe by making it to the quarter-finals.
From his home in the south coast of England, McParland watched Tuesday's television coverage of the Northern Ireland women famously defeating Ukraine 2-0 at Seaview in the second leg of the Euro play-off to win 4-1 on aggregate and qualify for the 2022 finals in England next July.
"I'd like to send my congratulations to the girls on their marvellous achievement. It's really something," said McParland, who scored five goals in the 1958 World Cup and twice in the FA Cup final for Villa in their 2-1 victory over Manchester United the year before.
"The manager Kenny Shiels and the team deserve the highest praise. They were well below Ukraine in the rankings and came through in fine style. It was a great performance by the team on Tuesday and it is fantastic for women's football in Northern Ireland and a big boost for the country as a whole."
Captain Marissa Callaghan and substitute Nadene Caldwell scored the historic goals at Seaview and while McParland revelled in those moments, he was also taken by the inspirational performance of the tireless Simone Magill in attack.
"Simone is a fantastic all action player, and I must say the scorers on Tuesday, Marissa and Nadene, took their goals very well," said the 86-year-old, as sprightly as ever.
"What I liked about the Northern Ireland team was that they were ready to take advantage of mistakes by the opposition and cashed in on them with those goals. They were alert to that possibility all the time and that says a lot about their desire to succeed and also about the work the manager has done with them."
History beckons for Northern Ireland's women in 2022 just like it did for the men in 1958.
McParland said: "The build up will be a lovely feeling for the players. They will be very excited at the chance to represent Northern Ireland in a tournament for the first time and when they play the games it will be a great experience. I hope they enjoy every single second."
Another Northern Ireland great, Aaron Hughes, who played in the Euro 2016 finals, was also hugely impressed, paying tribute to the team and the role played by Shiels and his son Dean, who is a key member of the coaching staff.
"On the night, they looked like a good tight knit unit and I think they looked like they wanted it that bit more," said Hughes, who won 112 caps.
"They had that hunger and intensity and came away with a fantastic result.
"You could see the team spirit, and I'm sure Kenny had a massive influence in that, and Dean as well. I have played with Dean and know his character. When you have that 'we'll do anything for each other on the pitch' you will have success from it, and that always starts from the top."
Former Newcastle, Villa and Fulham defender Hughes, now the Irish FA's Elite Football Development consultant, added: "It is a fantastic achievement qualifying for the Euros but it goes beyond that. There's so much more that will come from that.
"They have now really put women's football on the map. They are an inspiration for the next generation and role models to look up to and everything that comes with that. But for now they just have to enjoy the moment."