16/02/1972 Hull Spain 1-1 Sammy Morgan
Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson, Allan Hunter, Terry Neill, Dave Clements, Bryan Hamilton (Martin O’Neill), Eric McMordie, Sammy Morgan, Sammy McIlroy, George Best
On Saturday, October 23, 1971 a man with an Irish accent phoned a London newspaper and threatened to shoot George Best. Manchester United were due to face Newcastle United later that day. Bestie said, “I never stopped moving on the field. Even when there was someone on the floor injured I kept running around … The threat was supposed to have been related to a rumour in Belfast that I had made a donation to one of the Protestant organisations, which was utter rubbish.”
George subsequently withdrew from the match against Spain which was originally scheduled for Belfast on 10th November 1971. However, It became the first Northern Ireland fixture to fall victim to ‘The Troubles’, forcing it to be rescheduled and relocated to Hull. Northern Ireland did not play another game in Belfast until March 1975 as all ‘home’ matches were played in either England or Scotland. George played in the rescheduled match the following year.
Northern Ireland player/manager Terry Neill was also manager of Hull City at the time of this match which is why Hull was chosen as a venue.
The match kick-off had been scheduled for 7:30pm but had to be brought forward to 3:00pm due to an electrical power crisis caused by the miners’ strike.
On forty-one minutes Quino passed to Aguilar who crossed to Rojo and he headed the ball into the empty net. On 70 minutes Northern Ireland were awarded a freekick. Dave Clements took it short and passed to George Best, who in turn passed short to Sammy Morgan to earn Northern Ireland a point.
Sammy McIlroy – “I’ll never forget my first international, it was against Spain at Hull when our matches had to be staged away from Belfast because of ‘the troubles’. I nearly missed the train waiting on the platform for George Best, who never did turn up.”
* Trivia –
Spanish player Quini suffered an accidental fractured left cheek bone during this match after 28 minutes from the elbow of George Best. No freekick was awarded. Quini had an operation back home in Madrid after being passed fit to travel back with the Spanish squad. He did not play football for almost year after the operation.