Who Is The Irish FA’s Greatest Ever Left-Back ?


What has generally been regarded as a problem position for the Northern Ireland senior side with a lack of natural left footed players or natural left-backs, has actually produced its fair share of international stalwarts and legends.

Please take the time to click each player’s respective name and read in detail their career history before placing your vote.

Poll Closes 29th January 2016 at 20:00

Name:Nigel Worthington
Born: 4 November 1961, Ballymena
Height: 5.11 ft
Weight: 12.08 st
Position: Left-Back/Midfield


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 66 Full Caps (1984-1997), 14 Under-18 Caps; Irish League: 1 Cap (1981).

Club Honours: (with Ballymena) Irish Cup Winner 1980/81; Ulster Cup Winner 1980/81; (with Wednesday) Football League Division Two Champion 1990/91, Runner-Up 1983/84; FA Cup Runner-Up 1992/93; Football League Cup Winner 1990/91.

Awards: Ulster Young Footballer of the Year 1981.

Northern Ireland’s regular left-back for over a decade, Nigel Worthington was a consistent if unspectacular performer…

Nigel Worthington


Name: Mal Donaghy
Born: 13 September 1957, Belfast
5.10 ft
Weight: 12.07 st
Position: Defender/Midfielder


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 91 Full Caps (1980-1994), 1 Under-21 Cap (1978).

Club Honours: (with Luton) Football League Cup Winner 1987/88; Football League Division Two Champion 1981/82; Full Members Cup Runner-Up 1987/88; (with Man. United) Football League Runner-Up 1991/92; Football League Cup Runner-Up 1990/91 (unused sub); European Cup Winners’ Cup Winner 1990/91 (unused sub); FA Charity Shield Winner (Shared) 1990; European Super Cup Winner 1991 (unused sub).

Awards: NI PFA Most Promising Newcomer 1978; NI International Player of the Year 1987.

Northern Ireland’s most capped out-field player, Mal Donaghy went from precocious young left-back to Billy Bingham’s very own Irish sweeper…

Mal Donaghy


Name: Bertie Fulton
Born: 6 November 1906, Larne
5 May 1979,


Representative Honours: Ireland: 21 Full Caps (1928-1938); 20 Amateur Caps / 1 Goal (1925-1938); Irish League: 15 Caps (1929-1940); Northern Regional “War-Time” League: 4 Caps (1941-1943); Great Britain Olympic Team: 2 Games (1936 Berlin Olympics); Ireland/Wales v Football League (1935).

Club Honours: (with Larne) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1927/28; (Belfast Celtic) Irish League Champion 1925/26, 1928/29, 1932/33, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1938/39, 1939/40; Irish Cup Winner 1937/38, 1940/41, 1942/43, Runner-Up 1928/29; Northern Regional League Champion 1940/41, 1941/42, 1942/43; Gold Cup Winner 1939/40, Runner-Up 1929/30, 1937/38; City Cup Winner 1925/26, 1929/30, 1930/31, 1932/33, 1935/36, 1936/37, 1937/38, 1939/40, Runner-Up 1931/32, 1933/34; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1935/36, 1938/39, 1942/43, Runner-Up 1931/32, 1932/33; Charity Cup Winner 1931/32, 1935/36 (shared), 1938/39, 1939/40, 1940/41, Runner-Up 1924/25, 1929/30, 1930/31, 1934/35; (with London Caledonians) London Senior Cup Winner 1925/26.

A player of true Corinthian Spirit, well after the phrase could have been considered an anachronism in football circles, Bertie Fulton won every honour available to him, and never received a penny…

Bertie Fulton


Name:Alf McMichael
Born: 1 October 1927, Belfast
7 January 2006
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 11.02 st
Position: Left-Back


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 40 Full Caps (1949-1960), Junior; Irish League: 7 Caps (1948-1950).

Club Honours: (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1948/49; Irish Cup Winner 1947/48; Gold Cup Winner; Ulster Cup Winner; (with Newcastle) FA Cup Winner 1951/52.

Regarded as amongst the finest full-backs of his generation, Alf McMichael captained both club and country…

Alf McMichael


Name:Sammy Nelson
Born: 1 April 1949, Belfast
5.10 ft
Weight: 11.00 st
Position: Left-Back


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 51 Full Caps / 1 Goal (1971-1982); 1 Under-23 Cap (1969).

Club Honours: (with Arsenal) FA Cup Winner 1978/79, Runner-Up 1977/78, 1979/80; European Cup Winners’ Cup Runner-Up 1979/80.

Sammy Nelson had a long and distinguished football career winning an FA Cup and playing at a World Cup, but undoubtedly he will be most remembered for baring his backside…

Sammy Nelson


Name: Alex Elder
Born: 25 April 1941, Lisburn
Height: 5.07½ ft
Weight: 12.07 st
Position: Full-Back


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 40 Full Caps/1 Goal (1960-1969), 1 B Cap (1959), 1 Under-23 Cap (1964), 1 Schoolboy Cap (1955).

Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Gold Cup Runner-Up 1958/59; (with Burnley) Football League Champion 1959/60, Runner-Up 1961/62; FA Cup Runner-Up 1961/62.

A teenage League Champion with Burnley, as with so many young footballers injuries and circumstance were to restrict him to that single major honour…

Alex Elder


Name:Billy McCullough
Born: 27 July 1935,
Woodburn (near Carrickfergus)
Height: 5.10½ ft
Weight: 12.05 st
Position: Left-Back / Left-Half


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 10 Full Caps (1961-1967), 1 B Cap (1959); Irish League: 1 Cap (1958).

It is hard to fathom now how a player who was a regular in the English top-flight for six seasons could earn only nine caps, adding a further one when playing in the second tier. As previously noted, McCullough’s favoured left-back slot was covered by two other First Division players par excellence – Elder and Parke. He shared the left-half slot with another quality player, Jimmy Nicholson, and other roles among the backs that he might have coveted were filled by Danny Blanchflower, Martin Harvey, Terry Neill and clubmate, Eddie Magill. In almost any other era “Flint” would surely have claimed a bigger haul of representative honours!


Billy McCullough


Name: Tony Capaldi
Born: 12 August 1981, Porsgrunn (Norway)
Height: 6.00 ft
Weight: 11.08 st
Position: Left-Back / Midfielder


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 22 Full Caps (2004-2007), 14 Under-21 Caps (2001-2003), 4 Under-18 Caps / 1 Goal, Under-16 Caps, Under-15 Caps.

Club Honours: (with Cardiff) FA Cup Runner-Up 2007/08.

Norwegian born with an Italian name, thankfully Tony Capaldi elected to play for the country of his mother’s birth…  A left-sided midfielder or defender, Tony Capaldi was Northern Ireland‘s regular left-back for the first two-and-a-half years of Lawrie Sanchez’s management.

Tony Capaldi


Name:Sam Torrans
Born: 27 October 1869, Belfast
8 May 1948
Position: Forward/Left-Half/Left-Back


Representative Honours: Ireland: 26 Full Caps (1889-1901); Irish League: 8 Caps (1895-1901).

Club Honours: (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1897/98, 1901/02; Irish Cup Winner 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1897/98, 1898/99, 1901/02; City Cup Winner; Belfast Charity Cup Winner; Co. Antrim Shield Winner.

Undoubtedly the star of the famous Torrans clan, Sam was the only one of the four brothers to play in each of Linfield’s first six Irish League titles and first seven Irish Cup wins

Sam Torrans


Name:John Parke
Born: 6 August 1937, Bangor

Died: 27 August 2011
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 10.12 st
Position: Full-Back


Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 14 Full Caps (1963-1967), 1 Junior Cap (1953), 5 Youth Caps; Irish League: 5 Caps (1958-1963).

Club Honours: (with Linfield) Irish League Champion; Irish Cup Winner 1961/62, 1962/63, Runner-Up 1957/58, 1960/61; Gold Cup Winner; City Cup Winner; Ulster Cup Winner; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1957/58, 1958/59, 1961/62, 1962/63.

With John in the team Northern Ireland came within a whisker of qualifying for the 1966 World Cup Finals. With him absent from the team they conceded to lowly Albania, a goal that cost them a trip to England. Still Parke’s finest hour in a green shirt was perhaps the “George Best Match” against Scotland in 1967. That day he was the leading light in an otherwise makeshift defence that provided the bedrock for Best’s virtuoso attacking display.

John Parke




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