“It’s 1982 and as a 10 year old, I am glued to the TV watching the World Cup Finals from Spain. The host nation playing in Valencia in front of a partizan crowd against Northern Ireland, in what should have been a foregone conclusion in Spain’s favour. Billy Bingham’s side hadn’t read the script, despite Spain boasting the likes of Arconada the goalie, Camacho, Juanito and Alonso in their team, the men from the North were about to cause a huge upset.

I was transfixed by the effort and energy in the hot conditions of Martin O’Neill, Sammy McIlroy, Norman Whiteside and Gerry Armstrong. This was eleven men playing as a team. Two minutes into the second half, Billy Hamilton crossed into the box, Arconada could only palm it into the path of Gerry Armstrong, who dispatched it low into the Spanish net 1-0. Mal Donaghy received a red card for Northern Ireland just beyond the hour mark, but the ten men still held out for victory.

That tournament had players like the German Pierre Litbarski, the Russian Oleg Blokin and Winton Ruffer from New Zealand. Little did I know, I would come into contact with these players, when I became a professional footballer a few years later.

However, the men from Northern Ireland are to blame for igniting my love of the game and desire to play at a good level.”

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