Central midfield… where do we start? I would say the vast majority of our best central midfielders played onwards from the 1950s but especially from the 80s to present, simply because of association football formations becoming more flexible and reducing the forward line into a more packed midfield as time went on.
Remember this is not a poll based on who you have witnessed playing first hand. Instead please take time to check the biographies and statistics of all the players within the poll as the previous poll results indicate that its people’s memories of modern(ish) players rather than actual performances and achievements of the players with Northern Ireland.
The top two players in the poll will be selected for the starting line-up and the third placed player selected for the substitute’s bench.
Poll Closes 12th February 2016 at 20:00
Name: Sam Irving
Born: 28 August 1893, Belfast
Died: 12 December 1968, Dundee
Representative Honours: Ireland: 18 Full Caps (1923-1931).
Club Honours: (with Dundee) Scottish Cup Runner-Up 1924/25; (with Cardiff) FA Cup Winner 1926/27; FA Charity Shield Winner 1927; Welsh Cup Winner 1926/27; (with Chelsea) Football League Division Two Runner-Up 1929/30 (promoted).
Irving was a cultured wing half who played at the top level in all four corners of the UK. He was a Scottish Cup finalist with Dundee FC in 1925 and went one better with Cardiff City, being a member of their FA Cup-winning team in 1927. He later played for Chelsea and won a total of 18 caps for Northern Ireland, ten of them while at Dens Park.
Name: Sammy McIlroy
Born: 2 August 1954, Belfast
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 11.08 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 88 Full Caps/5 Goals (1972-1986), 3 Schoolboy Caps (1969).
Club Honours: (with Man. United) FA Cup Winner 1976/77, Runner-Up 1975/76, 1978/79, Football League Division Two Champion 1974/75; FA Charity Shield Winner (Shared) 1977.
The last of the Busby-Babes, Sammy McIlroy captained Northern Ireland to numerous successes through the 1980s…
Name: Martin O’Neill
Born: 1 March 1952, Kilrea
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 11.03 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 64 Full Caps (1971-1984); 1 Amateur Cap (1971).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Irish Cup Winner 1970/71; (with Forest) Football League Champion 1977/78, Runner-Up 1979/80; Football League Division Two Third Place (promoted) 1976/77; Football League Cup Winner 1977/78, 1978/79, Runner-Up 1979/80; FA Charity Shield Winner 1978; European Cup Winner 1979/80; European Super Cup Winner 1979, Runner-Up 1980; World Club Championship Winner 1980/81; Anglo-Scottish Cup Winner 1976/77; (with Norwich) League Division Two Third Place (promoted) 1981/82.
Awards: MBE 1982, OBE 2004 (both for Services to Football).
Since taking to management Martin O’Neill has developed a Midas Touch similar to that which he possessed as captain of Northern Ireland in the early-‘eighties…
Name: David McCreery
Born: 16 September 1957, Belfast
Height: 5.07 ft
Weight: 10.07 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 67 Full Caps (1976-1990), 1 Under-21 Cap (1978), Youth, 4 Schoolboy Caps (1973).
Club Honours: (with Man. United) FA Cup Winner 1976/77, Runner-Up 1975/76; (with Newcastle) Football League Division Three (promoted) 1983/84.
‘Wee Dee’ McCreery was a bundle of energy in the Northern Ireland midfield for a decade-and-a-half…
Name: Danny Blanchflower
Born: 10 February 1926, Belfast
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 11.11 st
Died: 9 December 1993, London
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 56 Full Caps / 2 Goals; Irish League: 4 Caps (1948-1949); Football League: 1 Cap; Great Britain (1955).
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1946/47, 1948/49; (with Tottenham) Football League Champion 1960/61; FA Cup Winner 1960/61, 1961/62; European Cup Winners’ Cup 1962/63; (with London FA) Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Runner-Up 1957/58.
Awards: Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year 1958, 1961.
Captain of Northern Ireland at the 1958 World Cup and captain of Spurs’ 1961 Double Winning side, Danny Blanchflower was, quite simply, one of the most important footballers of all time…
Name: Jimmy Nicholson
Born: 27 February 1943, Belfast
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 12.04 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 41 Full Caps / 6 Goals (1960-1971); 2 B Caps (1959-1960); 4 Under-23 Caps (1962-1965); Youth; 3 Schoolboy Caps (1957-1958).
Club Honours: (with Huddersfield) Football League Division Two Champion 1969/70; (with Bury) Football League Division Four Fourth 1973/74 (promoted).
Nicholson began his career with Manchester United, for whom he made 58 appearances, scoring five times, between 1960 and 1963, when he moved over the Pennines to Huddersfield Town.
Name: Dave Clements
Born: 15 September 1945, Larne
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 11.09 st
Position: Midfield / Left-Back
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 48 Full Caps / 2 Goals (1965-1976); 3 Under-23 Caps / 1 Goal (1965-1968); 1 Amateur Cap / 1 Goal (1963); Youth Caps; 3 Schoolboy Caps (1961); Team America: 3 Apperances (1976).
Club Honours: (with Coventry) Football League Division Two Champion 1966/67.
Awards: NASL All-Star Team (Honorable Mention) 1976.
A multi-honoured and multi-talented sportsman, Dave Clements was one of the stars ot the Northern Ireland team of the 1960s and ’70s, but fell agonisingly short of the fifty cap mark.
Name: Steven Davis
Born: 1 January 1985, Ballymena
Height: 5.07 ft
Weight: 9.07 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: Full Caps (2005-date), 1 Under-23 Cap (2004), 3 Under-21 Caps (2003-2004), Under-19, Under-17.
Club Honours: (with Aston Villa) FA Youth Cup Winner 2001/02; (with Rangers) Scottish League Champion 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11; Scottish Cup Winner 2007/08, 2008/09; Scottish League Cup Winner 2007/08, 2009/10, 2010/11, Runner-Up 2008/09; UEFA Cup Runner-Up 2007/08.
Awards: NI International Personality of the Year 2006, 2010; SPFA Players’ Player of the Year 2009/10.
Steven aided the Gers to the “Double” in 2009, scoring a crucial winner in a late-season win over Celtic. His performances earned him a place on the short-list for the SPL’s Player of the Year. The following season he improved further, helping Rangers retain their SPL crown and becoming the first Northern Irishman to lift the SPFA Player of the Year Award.
Name: Jim Magilton
Born: 6 May 1969, Belfast
Height: 6.00 ft
Born: 14.02 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 52 Full Caps/5 Goals (1991-2002), 2 Under-23 Caps (1989-1990), 1 Under-21 Cap (1990), 3 Under-18 Caps, 1 Under-16 Cap, 5 Under-15 Caps/1 Goal.
Club Honours: (with Liverpool) FA Charity Shield Winner 1990 (shared, unused sub); (with Ipswich) Football League Division One Play-Off Winners 1999/00.
Magilton started his playing career with Liverpool and remained with the club until 1990 when he joined Oxford United. After scoring 34 goals from midfield in 150 league appearances he signed for Southampton in 1994. Three years later he moved to Sheffield Wednesday for two seasons before going on briefly on loan to Ipswich Town – the move was made permanent in 1999. Magilton’s club career ended at Ipswich, having made over 250 league appearances.
Name: Norman Whiteside
Born: 7 May 1965, Belfast
Height: 6.02 ft
Born: 12.08 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 38 Full Caps/9 Goals (1982-1989), 1 Under-23 Cap (1989), Youth Caps, 8 Schoolboy Caps; Football League (1987).
Club Honours: (with Man. United) FA Cup Winner 1982/83, 1984/85; Football League Cup Runner-Up 1982/83.
The legendary “boy-man” of Northern Ireland’s early-eighties exploits, Norman Whiteside achieved so much at such a young age only for his career to end prematurely through injury…