28/09/1946 Belfast England 2-7 Norman Lockhart (2)
Alex Russell, Bill Gorman, Bud Aherne, Johnny Carey, Jackie Vernon, Joe Douglas, Davy Cochrane, Jimmy McAlinden, Eddie McMorran, Peter Doherty, Norman Lockhart
This was the first official British Championship fixture after the Second World War. Some of the 57,011 crowd spilled onto the Windsor Park pitch. FA Secretary, Stanley Rous refused to let the England team appear until the pitch was cleared. After stewards failed, the IFA’s General Secretary, Billy Drennan (who was assisting with the BBC’s broadcast of the match) grabbed the public address microphone informing the crowd that “The match won’t start unless…” succeeded in getting the fans back onto the terracing.
Johnny Carey appeared against England twice in three days, he made his (Northern) Ireland debut on the 28th at Windsor Park, and on the 30th he played against the same team for Eire in a 2-0 defeat in Dublin. In total the FAI awarded him 29 Caps, 19 as captain, and the IFA awarded him seven caps, one each at right-half and inside-right, two at left-back and three at right-back.
A record crowd was in place to see England’s first international for seven years, and the atmosphere was electric from the start. Indeed, there were fears at one point that the game would be in danger, as the crowd nearly spilled on to the pitch. England, who were able to field probably one of their strongest line-ups of all time, put on a majestic display, which considerably dampened the enthusiasm of most of the crowd. It was a fine way to mark their first ever international under a single manager (although the final say over team selection was still with the FA committee). Indeed, such was their dominance that they didn’t even miss Stanley Matthews. The one truly great Irish player, Doherty, was shut out of the game entirely.
In their first match after the First World War (in 1919), England had taken the lead in the first minute. Now, 27 years on, history repeated itself. Virtually straight from the kick-off, Aherne made a hash of clearing a Hardwick cross, and Carter pounced in a flash to put the visitors ahead. It was not long before they doubled their lead; Lawton providing Mannion with a chance he couldn’t miss. Before half an hour was up, Mannion made it three, slotting in the rebound after Lawton had crashed a shot against the bar. Northern Ireland had a period of pressure shortly before half-time, but couldn’t make it count.
Further goals early in the second half from Finney (playing on the right wing in place of Matthews) and Mannion (completing his hat-trick) put England even further ahead. Lockhart finally gave the crowd, by now virtually silent, something to cheer, but Lawton and Langton scored England’s sixth and seventh goals, before Lockhart scored a final consolation for the beleaguered hosts. England, seen (by themselves at least) as the best team in the world prior to the war, had carried on where they left off seven years earlier. Hardwick was the last player to captain England on his debut, and is still the only Middlesbrough player to captain the side.
“I have no regrets about only gaining one cap. It was very hard to get international recognition in those days as it was an all Ireland side and you were competing with players from the South. The match I played in we had Johnny Carey from Manchester United in the side and it was a proud moment for me.”