23/05/1980 Cardiff Wales 1-0 Noel Brotherston
Jim Platt, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, Chris Nicholl, John O’Neill, Tommy Cassidy (David McCreery), Sammy McIlroy, Billy Hamilton (Terry Cochrane), Gerry Armstrong, Tom Finney, Noel Brotherston
Northern Ireland became British Champions outright for the first time since 1914 a gap of 66 years and in the Irish Football Associations’ centenary year. Although England and Scotland were yet to face each other, the Irish could not be caught with 5 point after defeating Scotland and drawing with England in their previous matches. The results which enabled Northern Ireland to eventually win the championship outright rather than sharing the trophy was during the first round of matches when Northern Ireland defeated Scotland 1-0 in Belfast and Wales surprising defeating England 4-1 in Wrexham.
Northern Ireland scored the games solitary goal on 25 minutes thanks to Noel Brotherston (Blackburn Rovers). In the build up to goal Wales had been putting the visiting side under extreme pressure from Ian Rush (Liverpool) and Mickey Thomas (Manchester United), but the Irish defence of Tommy Cassidy (Newcastle United), Chris Nicholl (Southampton) and Mal Donaghy (Luton Town) dealt with the onslaught. In a counter attack Billy Hamilton (Burnley) gave the ball to Brotherston just inside the Welsh penalty area, who jinked past a defender before hitting the ball into the net past Dai Davies (Wrexham).
As was the case prior to the goal Northern Ireland remained on the back foot for the remaining minutes of the match. Billy Bingham the Northern Ireland manager ‘parked the bus’ with every Irish player in defensive positions.
Martin O’Neill was missing from the Northern Ireland squad due to Nottenham Forest’s European Cup commitments. In his place Sammy McIlroy (Manchester United) took the captains armband and put in a captains performance for his country organising the team on the field.
Wales came closest to scoring through wingman Leighton James (Swansea) (who scored against England a few days earlier) when on 28 minutes he shot from 20 yards over Jim Platt’s (Middlesborough) crossbar. Another shot from James on 38 minutes flashed inches wide of the post. Again in the 52nd minute James had a shot at goal but Platt was equal to it with a diving save.
16-05-1980 N. Ireland 1-0 Scotland.. [Windsor Park, Belfast]
17-05-1980 Wales….. 4-1 England… [Racecourse Ground, Wrexham]
20-05-1980 England… 1-1 N. Ireland [Wembley Stadium, London]
21-05-1980 Scotland.. 1-0 Wales….. [Hampden Park, Glasgow]
23-05-1980 Wales….. 0-1 N. Ireland [Ninian Park, Cardiff]
24-05-1980 Scotland.. 0-2 England… [Hampden Park, Glasgow]
N. Ireland. 3 2 1 0 3 1. 5
England…. 3 1 1 1 4 5. 3
Wales…… 3 1 0 2 4 3. 2
Scotland… 3 1 0 2 1 3. 2
* Trivia –
This tournament was the first time since 1970 that Scotland agreed to travel to Belfast having refused to play their since 1972 over security concerns. Northern Ireland ‘home’ matches against Scotland were held at Hampden Park in Glasgow!
This was the centenary year of the Irish Football Association and winning the Home Championship was a fitting outcome for all concerned at the organisation.
“We defeated them [Wales] one-nil with Noel Brotherston scoring to win the British Championship for the first time [outright] since 1914. I have wonderful memories of that Friday night. Everyone was happy both in Cardiff and back home and the feelings of us all can be gauged when I tell you that one of our leading pressmen [Malcolm Brodie] who raced across the pitch at the finish to congratulate the team. The late Bobby McGregor, our physio, and I rushed onto the field to congratulate the team. We were overtaken by Malcolm Brodie … Who was equally elated and thought he would join in the celebrations. We were ecstatic. We had waited so long to be champions [outright].”
“It is a tremendous night for me and for Irish soccer in our centenary year. I’ve kept the same side together for three matches and the players have acquitted themselves well.”
“The British title win is an unforgettable achievement. It looked impossible with several newcomers in the squad but their response was fabulous as the outcome proved and we are no longer a push over at international level. We can take on the best. I’m convinced this is the best squad that I’ve ever played in through the years. What’s really exciting is that there are so many superb youngsters coming through the ranks. Players like John O’Neill, Mal Donaghy and Noel Brotherston were just tremendous in May. As captain, I suppose I expected to have to settle them down in the first game against Scotland. But they got onto the job no problems. All I had to do was give a word or two of praise here and there.”
“I got my biggest thrill in 1980 when I captained the team to British Championship success. It was the first time that we had won the title outright since 1913-14 and it gave me a tremendous feeling. Martin O’Neill was unavailable for the three Championship games because of his involvement in the European Cup Final with Nottingham Forest. It was the most memorable occasion in my career apart from the day I won my first cap.”
Ireland & Sheffield United legend Billy Gillespie:
“They played really well. It was great to see an Irish team taking the title again.”
“It was a great feeling going out that night knowing that we could end up champions. We were playing so well that we were all inwardly confident, knowing that even a draw might do. But of course we wanted to go out and win … and lift the title in style. And that’s just what happened.”
“When the final whistle went, it was a superb feeling. The excitement on everyone’s faces was unforgettable. And the couple of hundred of fans who came over from Belfast certainly made themselves heard.”
“I don’t mean any disrespect for Pat Jennings, Pat article, Sammy Nelson or Martin O’Neill. But I think if our side had been along the traditional lines we probably wouldn’t have won. The new lads who came in – the likes of John O’Neill and Mal Donaghy – really played out of their skin … I think their spirit lifted everyone else.”
23/05/1972 London England 1-0 Terry Neill
Pat Jennings, Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson, Allan Hunter, Terry Neill, Dave Clements, Danny Hegan, Eric McMordie, Derek Dougan, Willie Irvine, Tommy Jackson
This was (Northern) Ireland’s sixth victory over England in 79 attempts. Terry Neill was the player manager of the Northern Ireland side (as well as Hull City!) and was winning his 50th cap for his country. George Best was missing for this game after not turning up to the team hotel. George had infact jetted off to Spain amid rumours that he was about to quit football.
Terry Neill netted the only goal after 33 minutes from Danny Hogan’s corner to give Northern Ireland their first win against England since 1957. Just ten days earlier England had been playing in the Euro ’72 Quarter-Final stage against West Germany which they ultimately lost. However, it was the performance of Pat Jennings that enabled Northern Ireland to claim the win. Jennings produced outstanding saves from both Rodney Marsh and Malcolm Macdonald but the best of the night was a one-handed effort from a Mike Summerbee cross which should rank among the very best ever seen at the famous Wembley stadium. Allan Hunter also had a great game to keep the English at bay.
* Trivia –
Some time was added on as the match was delayed when the referee went down with cramp in the 85th minute. He resumed after treatment from the trainers.
Pat Jennings was suffering from the effects of a smallpox injection but still produced a magical performance which prompted Brian Clough to say, “he stopped everything England could throw at him.”
England suffered only their second defeat to Northern Ireland since 1927 (and their first in 15 years), as the Ulstermen stunned Wembley. Given the political turmoil, not to mention bloodshed and violence, going on back at home, this was a great boost for morale in the province. All the more remarkable given that George Best had, controversially, not turned up to play. England, as usual for their second game of a Home Championship campaign, made a number of team changes. With Banks and Moore both dropping out of the side, this was the first game since the 1966 World Cup Final to feature none of those players in the starting line-up (although Peters would come on as a substitute).
England, not surprisingly, had more of the attacking play. They massively outnumbered Northern Ireland in terms of shots, but generally their football lacked imagination, despite the best efforts of Marsh, and they paid the price. Bell, captaining the side for the first time in Moore’s absence, did not have one of his better games. He, Storey and Currie were out-thought in midfield by the likes of McMordie, Hegan and Clements. Jennings was, as usual, immense in goal.
England’s best chance fell to Macdonald, set up by Marsh, but he shot wide. Five minutes later, the Irish took the lead, with virtually their first attack of the match. Shilton, who was replacing Banks, failed to claim Hegan’s corner, allowing Neill, the player-manager and captain, to nod the ball down and lash it in with his left foot Despite the introductions of Chivers and Peters, England could not break through, and Ireland enjoyed a famous victory.