Billy Bingham: Tributes to revered Northern Ireland football manager who has died at 90

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Tributes have been paid to former Northern Ireland football manager Billy Bingham, who has died at the age of 90.

The revered manager led Northern Ireland to the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals and a string of other glories.

In a statement, the Irish Football Association paid tribute to “its esteemed former player and manager”.

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It added: “Billy holds a unique place in the football hearts of Northern Ireland in that he both played at and managed in World Cup final tournaments with Northern Ireland, being part of Peter Doherty’s historic team of 1958 in Sweden and then managing Northern Ireland in the 1982 and 1986 finals.”

Billy Bingham share a joke with Pat Jennings  before a World Cup qualifying match against Romania in Bucharest in 1985Billy Bingham share a joke with Pat Jennings  before a World Cup qualifying match against Romania in Bucharest in 1985
Billy Bingham share a joke with Pat Jennings before a World Cup qualifying match against Romania in Bucharest in 1985

The IFA said he had “an illustrious playing career” starting at Glentoran and moving to Sunderland, Luton Town, Everton and Port Vale, earning 56 caps between 1951 and 1964 and scoring 10 goals.

“Billy was a tricky winger in the days when such a position was revered, but there was more to him than wing play. Billy was not afraid to mix it when needed, had an eye for goal and had a wonderful tactical and positional brain - attributes which would come to the fore in his managerial career. One of the first names on the teamsheet for Northern Ireland, he played with his east Belfast colleagues Danny and Jackie Blanchflower and Jimmy McIlroy.”

As a manager he worked with Southport, Plymouth, Linfield, Northern Ireland (twice), Greece, PAOK, Mansfield Town, Everton and As-Nassr (Saudi Arabia).

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“He was everything that a Northern Ireland manager needs to be – tactically astute, innovative and inspirational. He led the team to British Championship glory in 1980 and 1984, qualified for two World Cups in 1982 and 1986, and recorded the first home and away victories over West Germany in the qualification for the Euros in 84.

“His greatest achievement was probably the qualification of the team for the second phase of the World Cup in 1982 with the historic and unexpected victory over Spain in Valencia.”

The IFA said his successes in the 1980-86 period was built upon a solid defence in front of Pat Jennings and the tactical acumen using the talents of Norman Whiteside, Martin O’Neill, Sammy McIlroy, Billy Hamilton and Gerry Armstrong among others to create and score the goals at the other end.

“The Association would wish to send its condolences to Billy’s wider family circle.”

UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt also piad tribute.

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“I am deeply saddened to hear that Billy Bingham has passed away,” he said. “He was arguably the single most important figure in the history of the Irish Football Association having played in the 1958 World Cup and managed the 1982 and 1986 Northern Ireland World Cup teams.

“Personally, I owe him a huge debt as he got me to Spain in 1982 and Mexico in 1986 as a reporter, commentator and a fan. He and his players lifted the entire country in some of its darkest days.

“Billy Bingham was a tactical genius and an absolutely remarkable man manager. It is poignant that he has passed away two weeks short of the 40th anniversary of the greatest ever night for Northern Ireland football when we beat Spain in Valencia at their own World Cup in 1982.”