Having guided Northern Ireland to two World Cups in succession, the brink of qualification for the 1984 European finals and British Championship success, it is almost sacrilegious to be critical of manager Billy Bingham.
Bingham remains hero-worshipped in Northern Ireland for his legendary achievements, bold and brave decisions and tactical astuteness.
His players would often tell you he was ahead of his time in how he saw the game and galvanising the team.
To this day, they regard 88-year-old Bingham in the highest esteem.
Yet, as a collective group, if Bingham did make an error of judgement during his tenure, then they believe it came in not selecting Northern Ireland's greatest ever footballing talent, George Best, for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain.
Best had just turned 36, was drinking heavily, remained unreliable, brought shame on himself with unsavoury incidents and was continuing his globe-trotting odyssey after leaving Manchester United in 1974, with stints in the United States and Hong Kong. His last appearance for Northern Ireland was in 1977.
But with a ball at his feet, Best was still a world-class act, as proven when he scored a sensational, mesmerising and breathtaking individual goal for San Jose Earthquakes just a year prior to the World Cup in Spain.
The senior Northern Ireland players clamoured for his selection, however Bingham, fearful of Best disrupting the harmony within the squad, was unwilling to take what he felt was a gamble.
It is understood Best was in the initial 40-man squad, but after Bingham went to visit him in Edinburgh and he wasn't in great physical condition, he was omitted.
"Billy wouldn't talk about it for years," says Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong.
"It wasn't until after the World Cup in Mexico in 1986, when we having a few beers, that Billy basically said he did seriously consider it, but it was too much risk.
"I think a bad experience when he went to watch George (right) play for Hibernian had basically made up his mind up. George had returned from the States and signed for Hibs, who were struggling, and Bestie immediately put 10,000 to 14,000 people on the gate. He was playing really well, running the show as usual and the fans were loving it. But when Billy went to see him at 2.30pm, just half an hour before kick-off, the chairman informed him George would not be playing. Billy had wasted his time.
"Billy felt going out for so long to Spain was a risk he could not take with George."
Armstrong was Northern Ireland's goalscoring hero from the 1982 World Cup, smashing home the winner against hosts Spain (above) and finding the net against Honduras and France. His displays earned him a move to Real Mallorca. But the west Belfast-born striker admits he would gladly have the shared the spotlight with his pal from across the city in the east.
"We all disagreed with Billy," sighs Armstrong. "We wanted George there and we would have looked after him. He was our mate and big Pat Jennings knew him better than any of us. We would have made sure he was okay and, anyway, the hotel was basically on lockdown for the duration.
"He was 36 but still an incredibly fit 36-year-old. George would have made a huge difference, even just coming on from the bench.
"Imagine being under the cosh and we bring George on. It would have lifted the entire team. He would have changed the flow and dimension of the game with his dribbling, turn of pace and genius. Teams would have been frightened of him - he would have created so many opportunities and it would have been amazing to have him in our World Cup squad.
"It was such a shame Billy didn't pick him and I do think it was an opportunity missed.
"George, for all his talent, deserved to grace a World Cup stage."
Best sadly died in 2005 aged just 59. If he had lived, he would have been 74 last week.
Sammy McIlroy (below left), a former team-mate of Best at Manchester United, conceded: "George was in great condition and we all thought it would give us a great lift.
"I remember I was asked my opinion, so was Pat Jennings and a few others. We all wanted him in, but Billy Bingham said he couldn't really trust George to be away for five or six weeks."
David McCreery was deployed in the engine room of Northern Ireland's midfield in Spain and is adamant that if Best had been picked, the men in green could have made the semi-finals.
Even though they beat Spain to top their first round group, with Bestie pulling the strings McCreery says France would have been in their sights, too.
As it was, Northern Ireland lost 4-1 to a Michel Platini-inspired French side in Madrid in the second stage to end their run.
"If Bestie had been with us at the World Cup finals, we might even have gone further," says McCreery, who won 67 caps and appeared in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals. "He was incredible, even then he could turn it on in a heartbeat.
"I played in a testimonial with him around then and even though it was not a competitive game, you got a sense of what we were missing.
"We didn't know what was happening with George in 1982 and his participation in Spain. There were rumours and one or two of the senior players might have been asked their opinion by Billy, but I wasn't one of them.
"I know he had been playing in the United States, but I don't think that was a factor. Billy picked me for the World Cup I was playing for Tulsa Roughnecks.
"Spain that summer would have been his stage. He always liked performing in that part of the world. He helped United reach the European Cup final in Madrid in 1968 and, of course, he got the nickname El Beatle for his heroics in Lisbon against Benfica before that."
And the ex-Manchester United and Newcastle United midfielder is convinced that not only would Best have enhanced team spirit, but he would have lasted the pace of a long hot Spanish summer.
He explains: "Despite everything that was going on, Bestie never let his fitness drop. He was an athlete, the type of guy who didn't have much on him, if you know what I mean.
"I don't know if he was disappointed not to go. I guess he might have been but he was never one for regrets."
While one former Manchester United great was left out, Bingham had the courage of his convictions to select an aspiring Old Trafford talent, Norman Whiteside, and make him the youngest ever player at World Cup finals at just 17 years and 41 days.
"That was a stroke of genius by Bingy," proudly affirms Armstrong.