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Northern Ireland toppling Germans in '83 felt incredible, says Gerry Armstrong

 

Winner: Norman Whiteside celebrates his goal against West Germany in 1983
Winner: Norman Whiteside celebrates his goal against West Germany in 1983

By Paul Ferguson

Norman Whiteside may have scored Northern Ireland's famous winning goal against West Germany in November 1983, but it was debut boy Gerry McElhinney who landed the first blow.

The Germans, 36 years ago, were ferocious opposition, especially on home soil.

They were reigning European champions, they'd just been beaten in the 1982 World Cup final and would go on to once again be runners-up in the 1986 showpiece.

But Billy Bingham's Northern Ireland, during qualification for Euro 1984, managed a rare event in international football - they defeated the Germans home and away in a single campaign.

At the Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, Bayern Munich's Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was the star attraction for Germany.

He was a sensational striker, who had already scored eight international goals that year alone and was a two-time Ballon d'Or recipient.

However, after a collision with former Derry GAA star McElhinney in the opening exchanges, Rummenigge was virtually anonymous for the rest of the game.

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Gerry McElhinney
Gerry McElhinney

Northern Ireland 1982 World Cup hero Gerry Armstrong won his 50th cap that night and recalled: "We had a number of players missing that night, so Billy brought Gerry into the side.

"Gerry didn't play many games for us, however he certainly made his presence known in that game.

"After just a few minutes, Rummenigge tried to control the ball on his chest and Gerry came in with his big size 11 boots and caught him in the chest and on the chin. There were stud markings on his cheek.

"That was Rummenigge done. He never went near Gerry again and drifted out to the wing where he was least effective."

The Germans were a devastating and formidable outfit during that era, with Thomas Schumacher in goal, Real Madrid's Uli Stielike at the back, an emerging Lothar Matthaus in midfield, Rummenigge up front and Pierre Littbarski was there to come off the bench.

But it was a Kaiserslautern player who was the most frightening prospect in Hamburg.

"They had a tank on the left wing, Hans Peter Briegel," explained Armstrong.

"He was a decathlete and an absolute monster. I had to tackle him and keep him quiet.

"It was my job to make sure that he didn't get near Jimmy Nicholl.

Gerry Armstrong
Gerry Armstrong

"The Germans, as you would expect when they are at home, came at us in the first half and really put us under pressure, but we managed to keep them at bay. Then, in the second half, we turned it around and instead of me chasing down Briegel he was forced onto the back foot.

"After some excellent play down the left wing, Norman smashed home a great goal and we were able to hold on for the win.

"It was incredible because it meant we'd done the double over the Germans in a qualifying series and I don't think any team had done that before.

"Billy Bingham was so pleased and proud of our performance that he even bought all the players a drink. That was a big deal because Billy certainly didn't like to get his wallet out too much.

"Then I found out from David Bowen (IFA General Secretary) that he'd put the drinks through as IFA expenses!"

Northern Ireland, following West Germany's late 1-0 home win over Albania in their final qualifying match, missed out on reaching Euro 1984 on goal difference.

It was an agonising scenario considering Northern Ireland's achievements in beating the Germans twice and their exploits at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

"Between 1980 and 1986 we were an awesome team," stated Armstrong.

"We were so balanced and effective. Mal Donaghy at full-back was a proper athlete, so quick and no one was getting past him.

"David McCreery was like a ferret, consistently breaking up play, putting his toe in and then distributing the ball. Martin (O'Neill) and Sammy (McIlroy) were in midfield, Norman could drift out to the wing and Billy Hamilton was your robust target man.

"Jimmy Nic and I formed a great partnership down the right wing, constantly working together to foil the opposition's attacks, then turning defence into attack."

Northern Ireland, since that magical victory in Hamburg 36 years ago, have played four times in Germany without success, although there have been two creditable draws during that time.

Tonight, Michael O'Neill's squad are in Frankfurt to tackle the Germans for the fifth time in three years.

With the Germans having already secured automatic qualification to Euro 2020 and Northern Ireland confirmed to be in next March's play-offs, tonight's clash is virtually a dead-rubber.

But O'Neill's men have made a habit of rewriting history over the past couple of years and they will certainly have a hunger and desire this evening to join Armstrong and co as conquerors on German soil.

Game stats

European Championship Qualifier Group 6

Wednesday November 16, 1983

Venue: Volksparkstadion, Hamburg Att: 61,418

West Germany (0) 0 Northern Ireland (0) 1 Whiteside (50)

W. Germany: T. Schumacher (FC Koln); W. Dremmler (Bayern Munich), U. Stielike (Real Madrid), K. Forster (Vfb Stuttgart), H. Briegel (1.FC Kaiserslautern), L. Matthaus (Borussia Monchengladbach), K. Augenthaler (Bayern Munich), W. Rolff (Hamburg SV), N. Meier (Werder Bremen), K.H. Rummenigge (Bayern Munich) (capt), H. Waas (Bayer Leverkusen).

Subs: P. Littbarski (FC Koln) replaced Meier (68 mins); G. Strack (FC Koln) replaced Stielike (84 mins).

Subs not used: D.Burdenski (Werder Bremen) (gk); J.Otten (Werder Bremen); B.Forster (Vfb Stuttgart); M.Herget (Bayer Uerdingen):

P. Jennings (Arsenal); J. Nicholl (Rangers), M. Donaghy (Luton Town), G. McElhinney (Bolton Wanderers), J. McClelland (Rangers), P. Ramsey (Leicester City), M. O'Neill (Notts County) (capt), B. Hamilton (Burnley), G. Armstrong (Real Mallorca), N. Whiteside (Manchester United), I. Stewart (Queens Park Rangers).

Subs not used: J. Platt (Ballymena United) (gk); C. Nicholl (Grimsby Town); J. Cleary (Glentoran); T. Cochrane (Gillingham); C. Hill (Arsenal)

Referee: P. Karoly (Hungary)

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