16th May – Today In Our Footballing History

16/05/1980 Belfast Scotland 1-0 Billy Hamilton

Jim Platt, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, Chris Nicholl, John O’Neill, Tommy Cassidy (David McCreery), Sammy McIlroy, Billy Hamilton (John McClelland), Gerry Armstrong, Tom Finney, Noel Brotherston

The Scottish national association had called for supporters not to travel to their first international in Northern Ireland since 1970, but there were a handful of Scots in the hot evening sun there to see three Scottish players make their debuts in change red shirts; St Mirren pair Willie Thomson (in goal) and Peter Weir plus Aberdeen’s Gordon Strachan.

The Irish gave debuts to Luton’s Mal Donaghy, Blackburn’s Noel Brotherston and (as a sub) Mansfield’s John McClelland.. Billy Hamilton scored the only goal on 37 with a penetrating run and shot from just inside the area, Kenny Dalglish had a header cleared off the line on the final minute.

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John McClelland (who made his debut in this match):

“I was not in the original squad and was called up late because of an injury so I didn’t think I’d play… I was sitting sunning myself on a seat at the end of a row of players on the Windsor Park track. I thought I was just there for the ride. Suddenly, Billy Bingham shouted an instruction which was passed down the line of players and it ended with Tom Finney telling me to get stripped. Billy Hamilton came off and I was told to play centre-forward which really took the pressure off me. If I made a mistake it wasn’t going to cost us a goal! The next day my mum, who was listening to the game on the radio, said the commentator thought Billy Bingham had made a mistake and apparently the commentator didn’t know my name.”

Mal Donaghy (who made his debut in this match):

“… it wasn’t as hard as I’d expected, because my colleagues made it easy for me. There were so many good players around me, I could hardly fail. I was a Manchester United fanatic and used to go over by boat to see them. So playing alongside Jimmy Nicholl and Sammy McIlroy was fantastic.”

John O’Neill:

“It was a fabulous day for me. All the family came down from Derry for the match, even some of the ones with Scottish connections. As for me I’d only been to Windsor Park once before in my life – to watch England about 10 years ago. But I wasn’t overawed by the occasion. I think the fact that I had already made my debut – in Israel – helped me to settle down and enjoy the Scottish game.”

Billy Hamilton (goal scorer):

“If was a dream come true. I had my back to the goal and as the ball came to me I turned a defender and the ball just sat up lovely for me so I let fly … and in she sailed. It wasn’t the best goal I’ve ever scored, even at Windsor Park. But grabbing the winning goal on your home international debut can’t be bad.”

“I can’t remember a thing after that [an accidental clash of heads with Scotland’s Alex McLeish]. All I know is that I was substituted just after the interval suffering from concussion. And I was still nursing a sore head the next day. But thankfully it didn’t black out the goal.”

Back To The Drawing Board As Scots Flop

 Photographer: Roy Smyth

Photographer: Roy Smyth

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Northern Ireland Footballing Greats

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