Thursday, January 8, 2015

Northern Ireland Greatest All-Time Team

Northern Ireland 1982

Please also see my All-Time Team Index.
Ireland/Northern Ireland combined team,

The national team today known as Northern Ireland is organized by the Irish Football Association (IFA).  They were playing under the name Ireland until 1953.  After the Partition of Ireland in 1920's, Southern Ireland founded their own Football Association, namely
the Football Association of Ireland(FAI).  From 1937 to 1952, they also used the name "Ireland" for their national team.  Thus, two "Ireland" was playing in that period.  In 1953, the national team from IFA became Northern Ireland officially while the FAI's team became Republic of Ireland. 

The FAI's team known as Ireland won the British Home Championship in 1914 right before the First World War.  The best ever team for Norther Ireland probably came in the late 1950's.  They qualified for the 1958 World Cup Finals in Switzerland.  Until 2006, they were the least populous country to have qualified for the World Cup Finals.  The team led by Danny Blanchflower advanced to the quarterfinal, becoming and remaining as the smallest country to reach the second round in World Cup history. Despite having George Best in the 1960's and 1970's, Northern Ireland did not qualify for the World Cup Finals until 1982.  Their 1982 World Cup campaign was best remembered by beating the host Spain in Valencia and qualified to the next round.  They also qualified for the WC in 1986.  The 1980's generation was also remembered for beating West Germany twice home and away in the Qualifiers for Euro 1984.  The away match was West Germany's first ever home loss in a WC or European qualifier.

If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament. I have also created  Ireland/Northern Ireland combined team here.

GK: Pat Jennings
Considered among the greatest goalkeeper of all-time.  The prime of his career was spent with both Tottenham Hotspurs and Arsenal.  In 1973 the Football Writers' Association named him as its footballer of the year. Three years later he won PFA's version of the award – he was the first goalkeeper to receive this accolade, and to this date remains only one of two, along with Peter Shilton. He earned 119 caps for Northern Ireland and went to two WC Finals.
Pat Jennings
GK: Harry Gregg 
Gregg was Matt Busby's goalkeeper from 9 seasons.  He survived the Munich Air Disaster.  He was called a hero of the incident because he pulled out survivors from the burning plane. He was voted best goalkeeper of the tournament at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, where Northern Ireland reached the quarter-finals. He had 25 caps. H also played for Doncaster Rovers and Stoke City.

GK: Elisha Scott 
Scott played 31 times for Ireland(IFA).  He played for Liverpool from 1912 to 1934 and he remains as the longest-serving goalkeeper for Liverpool.  His career was interrupted by the First World War. He won two English Championships with them. He was known for his rivalry with Everton's Dixie Dean. He also played with Belfast Celtic and Linfield.

RB: Billy McCracken 
He was one of the most successful defender of his time.  McCracken played for the English club Newcastle United from 1904 to 1924, helping them win three League titles and the FA Cup. He was known for setting the offside trap for the attackers.  The offside rule was changed because of him. He was a part of Ireland(IFA) that became the co-champion of the 1903 British Home Championship, the first time the tournament was not won by England or Scotland.

RB/LB: John Carey
He was also a dual internationalist, playing for and captaining both Ireland teams – the FAI XI and the IFA XI. In 1949, he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year and in the same year captained the FAI XI that defeated England, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.  As a player Carey spent most of his career at Manchester United, where he was team captain from 1946 until he retired as a player in 1953. 

RB: Pat Rice 
Rice played for Arsenal between 1967 and 1980.  He was known for being a member of the team that won the League/FA Cuo Double in 1970-1971 season.  He was one of the few Arsenal players who had played for five FA Cup Finals, winning the cup twice. He was capped 49 times for Northern Ireland.
Pat Rice
CB: Alan McDonald 
Alan McDonald was capped 52 times for Northern Ireland between 1986 and 1996. He was a part of the team that went to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He spent most of his career with Queens Park Ranger, reaching the League Cup Final in 1986. He also had short spells with Charlton Athletic while on loan and Swindon Town. 
CB: Robert Milne
Between 1894 and 1906, Milne also made 27 appearances and scored 2 goals for Ireland. He was the captain of Ireland(IFA) as Ireland became the co-champion of the 1903 British Home Championship, the first time the tournament was not won by England or Scotland. It was also the first time that Northern Ireland beat Scotland.

CB: Terry Neill 
He played for Arsenal between 1959 and 1970.  He was at one point the youngest ever captain for the club.  He joined Hull City in 1970 as a player-manager at the age of 28, making him one of the youngest ever manager in the English league. He was capped 59 times for Northern Ireland between 1961 and 1973. He became their captain in 1968.

CB/FB: Aaron Hughes
He played over 450 games in the Premiership without sending-off, the second best in history after Ryan Giggs.  He is a defender while Giggs is an attacker. He playd mainly for Newcastle United and Fulham.  He also played for clubs in India and Scotland. He was capped 109 times, captaining the national team for most part of his career. He was the first player from Northern Ireland to earn 100 caps.  He went to Euro 2016.

CB: Jackie Blanchflower 
Along with his brother Danny, he helped Northern Ireland to qualify for the World Cup Finals in 1958. He was a member of Manchester United's "Busby Babes". He survived the Munich Air Disaster, but his career was cut short. He retired in 1959. He only had 12 caps and missed the 1958 WC Finals because of Munich.
Jackie Blanchflower
LB: Alf McMichael
Belfast-born McMichael began his career at Linfield, before signing for Newcastle United in 1949. He remained at Newcastle until 1962, appearing 433 times. He was part of the team that won the 1952 FA Cup Final. At one point he was considered the best left-back in Britain and was a popular player amongst Newcastle United supporters. He represented Northern Ireland 40 times.

CM/AM:  Danny Blanchflower 
Danny Blanchflower  won the Double in 1961 with Tottenham Hotspurs.  He won the FA Cup the following year, and then, a Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.  He was the PWA Player of the Year in 1958 and 1961. He also played for Aston Villa and Barnsley before joining Hotspurs. He went to the World Cup in 1958, where North Ireland reached the quarterfinal.
Danny Blanchlfower(R) vs England
CM: Sammy McIlroy 
He joined Manchester United in 1969, becoming Matt Busby's last signing at the club.  He stayed there until 1982.  At one point, Manchester United dropped to the 2nd divsion, where he helped them to grain promotion. He joined Stoke as their record signing.  He played in both Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986.  He was the captain of the 1986 World Cup side.

LW/RW: George Best 
George Best was considered to be one of the greatest players ever played the game.  He was voted #19 as the greatest European player by the UEFA Jublilee Poll. He was known for his "pop star" lifestyle. He was one of the "United's Trinity" that helped Manchester United to their first (and also first ever for an English club) European Cup in 1968.  He won the PWA PLayer of the Year award and the Ballon d'Or that year.
George Best
RW: Billy Bingham 
He was a childhood friend of Jackie Branchflower. He was at one point the cap record holder for Norther Ireland. He helped them to qualify for Sweden 1958, where North Ireland reached the quarter-final.  He won a league title with Everton in 1963. His longest stint was with Sunderland, where he spent 8 years.  He also had a lengthy career with Luton Town.

RW/FW: Patsy Gallacher 
He was nicknamed "Mighty Atom".   He was considered one of the greatest Celtics players ever.  The 1925 Scottish FA Cup Final was called "the Patsy Gallacher" final after he scored a somersault goal. He played for Falkirk at the end of his career. He played 12 times for IFA (now called Northern Ireland) and one time for FAI (now Ireland) in a game against Spain at the age of 41, the oldest ever debutant for their team.

FW: Gerry Armstrong 
In 1982, he scored the winning goal against the host Spain during the final group game of the World Cup Finals.  For his club career, he played for various club in England and he played the most games with Tottenham Hotspurs and Watford.  He also had a brief stunt in Spain after the World Cup.  He had 63 caps.
Gerry Armstrong 
FW/LM: Peter McParland 
He scored two goals against Manchester United at the FA Cup Final of 1957.  He was also remembered for injuring Manchester United keeper Ray Wood in a legal move during the game. He also won the Second Division title in 1960 and the League Cup in 1961 while with Aston Villa. Represented Northern Ireland 34 times and starred for them in the 1958 World Cup in which he scored five goals and helped his team to the quarter-finals. 

AM/FW: Jimmy McIlroy
He is considered Burnley's greatest ever player.  He helped them to win the 1959-1960 First Division League title(1st tier league before the Premiership), and reach the FA Cup Final in 1962.   McIlory was allowed to leave for Stoke City for a cut price £25,000, which came as a shock to the Burnley fans who branded chairman Bob Lord 'insane'..  He went to the WC Finals in 1958.

FW/CM Norman Whiteside 
In 1982, he became the youngest player ever played in a WC Finals.  He also played in the 1986 World Cup Finals.  For his club career, he made his debut with Manchester United as a 16 years old in 1982.  He became a starter in the 1982-1983 season as a teenager.  However, his career was marked with injury problems. e moved to Everton in 1989, which was then a more successful club than Manchester United.  He retired in 1991.
Norman Whiteside
ST Peter Doherty
He played for Ireland(IFA) between 1935 and 1950.  He served in the RAF during the War. He won a league title with Manchester City in 1937, an F.A. Cup final with Derby County in 1946.  He also played with Blackpool. His later career saw him as the central figure as player and manager during Doncaster Rovers most successful era.  

ST: David Healy
Healy is the all-time leading scorer for Northern Ireland with 36 goals, and also holds the record for the highest scoring tally during a European Championship qualifying campaign with 13.  He started with Manchester United in 1999, but only played once for them, spent his entire career with various club in England.  He had brief spells with Fulham and Sunderland in the Premiership. He retired in 2013.
David Healy

Honorable Mention
John McClelland, Gerry Taggart, Jimmy Quinn.

Squad Explanation
-- Due to the complexity of Irish question, dual international players who played for both the Republic and Northern Ireland between 1908 and 1950 are eligible to be on this team if they were capped by IFA's Ireland. 
-- David Healy was selected based on his stats and record with the national team. He is the all-time leading scorer for Northern Ireland with 36 goals.
-- Jimmy McIlroy, Harry Gregg,  Danny Blanchflower, Alf McMichael and Billy Bingham went to the World Cup Finals for Northern Ireland in 1958. Jackie Blanchflower would have made the team too.
-- In the 1980's, North Ireland qualified for two World Cup Finals. Alan McDonald, Pat Jennings, Norman Whiteside, Gerry Armstrong and Sammy McIlroy were a part of that generation.

Starting lineup
Formation: 4-4-2
My starting lineup is much older than some of the all-time team I found on the internet.  My youngest starters are George Best and Pat Jennings.  I thought of starting Norman Whiteside.

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