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Billy Bingham inspired Northern Ireland to some special times and I’ll always cherish them: Sammy McIlroy

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Billy Bingham waves to the crowd ahead of Sammy McIlroy

Billy Bingham waves to the crowd ahead of Sammy McIlroy

Billy Bingham waves to the crowd ahead of Sammy McIlroy

Sammy McIlroy was one of Billy Bingham’s trusted warriors during a golden period for Northern Ireland and the former Manchester United midfielder is cherishing those memories they shared together.

McIlroy played in all the games at the 1982 World Cup Finals and also captained the side at the showpiece in Mexico four years later.

The famous victory over Spain in ’82 is still celebrated, with a 40th anniversary party being planned for this summer, but there are so many other glorious chapters in the Bingham story.

After being part of the Northern Ireland side which reached the Quarter-Finals of the 1958 World Cup, his legendary exploits as manager gain even more affection and appreciation with the passage of time.

“Qualifying for the two World Cups and winning the British Championships are special memories,” said McIlroy, who won 88 caps.

“What the squad achieved over a six -year period in the 1980s was fantastic and Billy played his part in that as a great motivator.

“The players had a great hunger to do well and Billy had us in the right frame of mind to go out and do the job, regardless of how tough the challenge was.

“We had great times together and it was a real honour for me to represent Northern Ireland in those incredible times.”

In February 1982, McIlroy had left United to join Stoke City where he helped his new club avoid relegation. But his international adventures were about to get a lot more thrilling.

“Billy did set the team up very well. Everyone knew their jobs from defence to attack,” he added.

“We were well organised and when we had to be hard to break down, we were.

“Billy is a legend for what he achieved and I was captain for the ’86 World Cup and British Championship win so they are great memories for me.

“1958 had been the last previous World Cup Finals appearance so to get there in 1982 was a long time coming and great achievement. To then make it back-to-back World Cups says a lot about the players and manager as well as the supporters who got behind the team and had a great time.

“It was a fantastic time to play for Northern Ireland, that’s for sure.

“I knew Billy had ill health for some time and it’s very sad to learn of his passing.”


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