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Pat Jennings: There will quite simply never be another Billy Bingham


Pat Jennings with Billy Bingham

Pat Jennings with Billy Bingham

Pat Jennings with Billy Bingham

“There will never be another Billy Bingham,” said an emotional Pat Jennings as he was struck by the same wave of sadness that has swept across Northern Ireland and beyond its shores following the news of Billy Bingham’s passing.

Northern Ireland great Jennings will remember his former international boss as a “lovely person who earned huge respect as a top manager”.

The former Northern Ireland manager and player steered his country to the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals. Jennings made 119 appearances for Northern Ireland and was the first name on the teamsheet during those glory years before his final game at the finals in Mexico against Brazil on his 41st birthday.

“The team spirit was fantastic but we were an excellent team and we deserved all the success,” said Jennings. “Billy was down to earth and he cared about his players. He wanted them to improve and worked hard at it. He was ahead of his time and he knew our strengths.

“Looking back, it was a long time for us to qualify for a World Cup and that shows you how difficult it is for a country like ours.

“He was a lovely person who earned huge respect as a top manager. He did an unbelievable job and we owe him a lot individually. I had a great career and finishing against Brazil on my 41st birthday was special.

“We will never know what we could have achieved with another manager but Billy motivated us and we had the right amount of spirit and talent to do something. There are so many games and memories to look back on. I played over 1,100 games in my career so you can’t remember them all, but some live in the memory forever and there will never be another Billy Bingham, he will be missed by so many people.”

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Jennings actually played against Bingham in his early days with Watford in the 1960s.

“I think he will be fondly remembered both as a player and manager. He played in the 1958 finals and in my early days with Watford I actually played against him, he was a great player,” recalled Jennings.

“As the goalkeeper in his teams I prided myself on the clean sheets we got. He knew we could nick a goal and remain strong at the back. People talk about the games at the World Cup finals and they were great but the performances in the qualifying matches were so important and we managed to get six clean sheets on the bounce in the run up to the 1986 finals.

“There were two games against Turkey, Romania away and the famous scoreless draw against England at Wembley. We also played Spain and a France team including Michel Platini in friendlies and they couldn’t score against us. The memories he gave us are unbelievable and it’s an amazing legacy.”

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