21st November – Today In Our Footballing History

21/11/1979 Belfast Republic Of Ireland 1-0 Gerry Armstrong

Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl, Sammy Nelson, Allan Hunter, Chris Nicholl, Vic Moreland, David McCreery, Martin O’Neill (Tommy Cassidy), Gerry Armstrong, Sammy McIlroy, Derek Spence

Gerry Armstrong scored the only goal of the game on 54 minutes at the end of 10 minutes of non-stop Northern Ireland pressure, though their keeper Pat Jennings was man of the match having made two brilliant saves before half-time. The Republic’s Gerry Daly needed three stitches to a head wound after being struck by a stone thrown from the crowd. Danny Blanchflower resigned as Northern Ireland manager immediately afterwards; “When I spoke to the committee during the week I got the impression they would like me to go and this time I have decided I will go. I believe Northern Ireland have a possible chance in the 1982 World Cup and a younger man should be given the chance.” The win for Northen Ireland ensured England their place in Italy.

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Danny Blanchflower on the eve of the match: “What’s all this fuss about? It’s only two teams from England playing each other, after all.”

Gerry Armstrong:

“Neither of us amounted to much then in the big wide world. We’d earlier been hammered 4-0 by Denmark, then 5-1 by England, and the Republic’s results hadn’t been great either. It was competitive enough, I was in a Spurs-Arsenal battle … Manchester United lads were on opposite sides. We all wanted to be the ones who were doing the crowing afterwards.”

“This time it was our turn to wear green jerseys… Again, we were on our best behaviour. Some lunatic in the crowd chucked a missile and the fans actually caught the guy and passed him over to the police. It was he most sensible reaction I ever saw from a crowd.”

“I can well remember big Mick Kearns leaving his line and calling loudly: ‘Keepers ball.’ But he made a fatal mistake. He did not move to gather the ball and I nipped in from of him and glanced a header into the net. The goal was at the Kop end, and the crowd adored it. You see, we’d gone out looking the underdogs. I knew there and then that we had won the match and if the fans were happy, the players were delirious. We had done a professional job. Our pride was intact.”

“It was after the game that Danny Blanchflower resigned… Ten minutes after the game Danny revealed in the dressing room ‘”This is goodbye, lads. I’m resigning.'” We were stunned. After such a victory it was the last thing we expected to hear. There were tears shed.”

“Danny was unlike any other manager – a bit of a mystic and dreamer. But his love of the game was obvious and we loved him. The match was forgotten as he went round shaking hands. I was especially sad as Danny had given me my chance in the team. I’ll never forget him saying before my debut – ‘”Go out and enjoy it. I picked you so I take the responsibility.'”

Photographer: Roy Smyth

1979_nov_northernireland_repofirelandPhotographer: Roy Smyth

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Northern Ireland Footballing Greats

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