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Ivan Little

Spain 1982 – Slice of history comes with a steep price

Ivan Little


My World Cup brochure’s selling for 70 times its original cost online, writes Ivan Little

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The brochure Ivan Little helped to produce

The brochure Ivan Little helped to produce

Former NI stars Billy Hamilton, Felix Healy, John McClelland, Jim Cleary, Jimmy Nicholl, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings at a reunion last week

Former NI stars Billy Hamilton, Felix Healy, John McClelland, Jim Cleary, Jimmy Nicholl, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings at a reunion last week

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The brochure Ivan Little helped to produce

I never thought I’d become a collector’s item.

But a publication I co-produced for the Northern Ireland football team in the run-up to their heroic World Cup finals successes in Spain 1982 is apparently fetching silly money on the internet.

A friend told me he’d been asked for astronomical sums for the Espana 82 brochure, and sure enough I found a second-hand copy offered online at £106.49, which is around 70 times dearer than the original cover price.

Obviously I would say that the booklet was good, but it wasn’t that good, and I told my friend to keep googling to find a more realistic price.

His quest started after the recent celebrations in Belfast to mark the 40th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s famous World Cup win over Spain, which quite rightly triggered a host of happy memories.

But there was another side to that illustrious campaign at Espana 82. People don’t believe me, but the first game against Yugoslavia in the group stages was a yawn-fest.

My involvement in the booklet, which was designed to warm up the fans for what was to come in the red-hot atmosphere of Spain, obviously gave the finals an extra edge for me.

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But I simply couldn’t afford to travel to Spain, which was a bitter blow. However, as chance would have it, a last-minute ‘destination unknown’ family holiday in Spain took us to Salou on the Costa Dorada.

Also unknown to me was that Salou was a base for many Northern Ireland fans. Their presence was noticed by my wife, who said she thought she could hear The Sash in the early hours as we enjoyed a jar on our balcony.

In the days before the Green and White Army transformed the repertoire of Norn Iron supporters, it was a song we would hear repeatedly over the next few days.

But one positive was that enterprising bus companies in Salou laid on day/evening trips to games for fans who weren’t part of organised supporters’ groups.

So, I enthusiastically signed up for the first match against Yugoslavia. And though I was on my own, I fell in with other solo travellers who, like me, were eagerly anticipating their first taste of the World Cup finals.

It took nearly three hours to travel the 150 miles from Salou to Zaragoza but just seconds to find a hostelry filled with Irish fans.

The party atmosphere outside La Romareda stadium quickly transferred inside the ground, but it didn’t last. For the match was a tedious 0-0 draw, notable only for the fact that debutant Norman Whiteside was the youngest ever player ever to grace a World Cup final stage at 17 years and 41 days, beating Pele’s record.

And anyone who thought the Shankill Road youngster would be overawed by the occasion quickly got their answer as Norman soon got stuck into a few Yugoslavs and was booked for his trouble. But that was as good as it got on the night, and the final whistle was a relief.

On the bus back to Salou, the trip organisers went around the fans offering us the chance to go back to Zaragoza for the next match against Honduras.

There were few takers and even fewer supporters who believed Northern Ireland stood any hope of qualifying for the next stages of the competition.

After all, game three against host nation Spain was, everyone agreed, unwinnable.

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Former NI stars Billy Hamilton, Felix Healy, John McClelland, Jim Cleary, Jimmy Nicholl, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings at a reunion last week

Former NI stars Billy Hamilton, Felix Healy, John McClelland, Jim Cleary, Jimmy Nicholl, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings at a reunion last week

Former NI stars Billy Hamilton, Felix Healy, John McClelland, Jim Cleary, Jimmy Nicholl, Gerry Armstrong, Martin O’Neill and Pat Jennings at a reunion last week

Back in Belfast, I decided to watch the match on the telly, not with friends in a bar but in my house.

However, Gerry Armstrong’s sensational winner was the cue for an impromptu knees-up for friends and family including my mother, who hadn’t a clue about football.

For me, there were also wistful regrets that I hadn’t had the confidence to stay on in Spain and go to Valencia for the impossible victory.

Little did we know in 1982 that there would be a repeat of the World Cup glory four years later in Mexico.

I was also involved in the preparation of a booklet to mark that one but can’t find it for love nor money on the internet.


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