It is quite hard to categorise players into positions as many were versatile enough to play in numerous position for both club and country. It also doesn’t help that association football formations have changed quite often throughout the years from the WM, WW, Sweeper to the 4-4-2, 4-5-1 etc.
Remember this is not a poll based on who you have witnessed playing first hand. 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 player who tops the poll will be selected for the starting line-up and the second placed player selected for the substitute’s bench.
Poll Closes 19th February 2016 at 20:00
Name: Bertie Peacock
Born: 29 September 1928, Coleraine
Height: 5.06 ft
Weight: 11.00 st
Died: 22 July 2004
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 31 Full Caps/2 Goals (1951-1961); Irish League: 3 Caps (1962-1963); Great Britain (vs Rest of Europe, 1955).
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1948/49; (with Celtic) Scottish League Champion 1953/54; Scottish Cup Winner 1950/51, 1953/54; Scottish League Cup Winner 1956/57, 1957/58; (with Coleraine) Irish Cup Winner 1964/65; Ulster Cup Winner; City- Cup Winner 1968/69; North-West Senior Cup Winner; Blaxnit North-South Cup Winner 1969; Top-Four Cup Winner 1968/69.
The “Little Ant” – Bertie Peacock captained Celtic to Scottish Cup success in the fifties, and was a key member of Northern Ireland’s 1958 World Cup successes…
Name: Ian Stewart
Born: 10 September 1961, Belfast
Height: 5.06½ ft
Weight: 11.09 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 31 Full Caps (1982-1987), Youth, 3 Schools Caps (1977).
Club Honours: (with QPR) Football League Division Two Champion 1982/83.
Ian Stewart, who had won Northern Ireland schoolboy and youth caps, was signed by QPR in May 1980 on the recommendation of scout Bill Smyth. The move made up for his earlier disappointment having been turned down by Everton as a seventeen year-old.
Name: Michael Hughes
Born: 2 August 1971, Larne
Height: 5.06 ft
Weight: 10.08 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 71 Full Caps/5 Goals (1991-2004), 2 Under-23 Caps (1989-1990), 1 Under-21 Cap (1990), 1 Under-19 Cap, 1 Under-18 Cap, 2 Under-17 Caps, 4 Under-16 Caps, 5 Under-15 Caps/1 Goal.
Club Honours: (with Palace) Football League Division One Play-Off Winner 2003/04 (promoted).
Awards: NI International Personality of the Year 1999; NI PFA Most Promising Newcomer 1988.
Northern Ireland’s most exiting player throughout the ’90s, Michael Hughes will be best remembered for his goals to give us the lead against Germany in 1992 and 1997. Northern Ireland were denied Michael Hughes’ talents for almost a year as he was forced out of football due to a contractual despute between Wimbledon and Birmingham – perhaps unsurprisingly his absense coincided with the infamous goal-drought!
Name: John Peden
Born: 12 July 1863, Maze, near Lisburn
Died: 15 September 1944, Belfast
Representative Honours: Ireland: 24 Full Caps / 7 Goals (1887-1899), 1 Representative game / 1 Goal (1891); Irish League: 4 Caps / 1 Goal (1893-1899); Co. Antrim FA Representative.
Club Honours: (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1901/02, Runner-Up 1893/94; Irish Cup Winner 1890/91, 1892/93, 1901/02; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1889/90 (withheld), Runner-Up 1902/03, 1904/05; City Cup Winner 1900/01; Belfast Charity Cup Winner 1890/91, 1891/92, 1892/93, 1900/01, Runner-Up 1887/88; (with Distillery) Irish League Champion 1895/96, 1898/99; Irish Cup Winner 1895/96; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1895/96, 1896/97; Belfast Charity Cup Runner-Up 1896/97.
Manchester United’s (well Newton Heath’s actually) first Irishman? John Peden’s career was long and distinguished on both sides of the Irish Sea…
Name: Chris Brunt
Born: 12 December 1984, Belfast
Height: 6.01 ft
Weight: 11.10 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: Full Caps (2004-date), 1 Under-23 Cap (2004), 2 Under-21 Caps /1 Goal (2005-2006), 8 Under-19 Caps / 3 Goals.
Club Honours: (with Sheffield Wednesday) Football League One Play-Off Winner 2004/05; (with West Brom) Football League Championship Winner 2007/08, Runner-Up 2009/10.
A “deadball specialist” and one of Northern Ireland’s few players with Premier League experience, Chris Brunt’s performances from left-midfield have been hit-and-miss, ranging from sublime crossing to outright lethargy. On 11 February 2009 he scored his first international goal with a long-range curling free kick against San Marino.
Name: Charlie Tully
Born: 11 July 1924, Belfast
Died: 27 July 1971, Belfast
Height: 5.08 ft
Weight: 10.07 st
Representative Honours: Ireland: 10 Full Caps / 3 Goals (1948-1958); Irish League: 1 Cap (1947).
Club Honours: (with Belfast Celtic) Irish Cup Winner 1946/47; Gold Cup Winner 1946/47; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1944/45; Northern Regional (War-Time) League Champion; (with Glasgow Celtic) Scottish League Champion 1953/54; Scottish Cup Winner 1950/51, 1953/54, Runner-Up 1954/55, 1955/56; Scottish League Cup Winner 1956/57, 1957/58; (with Cork Hibs) FAI Cup Runner-Up 1959/60.
“Do you enjoy playing for your country, Mr Ramsey?” asked Charlie. “I do, Mr Tully,” replied the ever-polite future knight. “Make the most of it today, then,” came back the irrepressible Irishman, “it might be the last chance you get.” During the 2-2 draw, Tully swerved a corner kick from the left (he took them with either foot from both sides) past the astonished and unbalanced Gil Merrick in the England goal.
Name: Kingsley Black
Born: 22 Jun 1968, Luton (England)
Height: 5.08 ft
Weight: 10.11 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 30 Full Caps/1 Goal (1988-1994), 3 ‘B’ Caps (1994-1999), 1 Under-23 Cap (1989), 1 Under-21 Cap (1990); England: 4 Under-18 Schoolboy Caps (1986).
Club Honours: (with Luton Town) Football League Cup Winner 1987/88, Runner-Up 1988/89; (with Nottingham Forest) Football League Division One Runner-Up 1993/94; Football League Cup Runner-Up 1991/92; Football League Full Members Cup Winner 1991/92; (with Grimsby Town) Football League Division Two Play-Off Winner 1997/98; Football League Trophy 1997/98.
The controversy stirred up by Kingsley Black’s decision to play for Northern Ireland, instead of his native England, saw the then largely unknown winger splashed all over the back page of every national and local newspaper. Having already played for England schoolboys Black had been offered a chance to play for their Under-21 side, but he chose instead to play for Northern Ireland, the country of his father’s birth.
Name: Jack Kirwan
Born: 9 February 1878, Co. Wicklow
Died: 7 January 1959, Hendon, London
Representative Honours: Ireland: 17 Full Caps/2 Goals (1900-1909).
Club Honours: (with Spurs) FA Cup Winner 1900/01; Southern League Champion 1899/1900; (with Chelsea) Football League Division Two Runner-Up 1906/07 (promoted).
With his playing days over, Kirwan moved to the Netherlands where he became Ajax’s first ever “manager” in September 1910. He led them to the Dutch top-flight for the first time in 1911, returning to the UK in 1915 after the outbreak of the First World War. Kirwan later had a spell as coach of Livorno in Italy (1923-1924), before settling in the London area. Amongst his many caps and medals, one of Kirwan’s most prized possessions was the ball used in the 1901 FA Cup Final, and he kept it until he died in 1959.
Name: Peter McParland
Born: 25 April 1934, Newry
Height: 6.00 ft
Weight: 12.10 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 34 Full Caps / 10 Goals (1954-1962); Football League: 1 Cap / 1 Goal (1960).
Club Honours: (with Villa) FA Cup Winner 1956/57; Football League Cup Winner 1960/61; Football League Division Two Champion 1959/60; (with Atlanta) NPSL Champion 1967.
Always a prolific scorer from the wing ‘Packy’ McParland found his best form at the perfect time, netting five times at the 1958 World Cup Finals…
Name: Frank Thompson
Born: 2 October 1885, Ballynahinch
Died: 4 October 1950, Ayr (Scotland)
Height: 5.07 ft
Weight: 11.06 st
Representative Honours: Ireland: 12 Full Caps / 2 Goals (1910-1914), 3 Amateur Caps (1906-1910), Junior; Irish League: 3 Caps (1908-1909).
Club Honours: (with Cliftonville) Irish League Champion 1909/10; Irish Cup Winner 1908/09, Runner-Up 1909/10; (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1910/11; (with Bradford City) FA Cup Winner 1910/11.
Thompson won the first three of his twelve Full Ireland caps while with Cliftonville, and he got off to a flyer at international level. His debut, against England in Belfast at Solitude in 1910, brought a goal as the Irish led 1-0 at half-time only to be pegged back to 1-1 in the second-half. His second cap against Scotland a month later brought another goal, and an even better result as the Scots suffered a 1-0 defeat on their first ever visit to Windsor Park. The run came to an end at Wrexham as Wales cruised to an easy 4-1 win to deny Ireland their first outright Home Nations title.
Name: George Best
Born: 22 May 1946, Belfast
Died: 25 November 2005, London, England
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 10.03 st
Position: Forward / Midfield
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 37 Full Caps/9 Goals (1964-1977), Youth Caps.
Club Honours: (with Manchester United) Football League Champion 1964/65, 1966/67; European Cup Winner 1967/68, Watney Cup Runner-Up 1970; FA Youth Cup Winner 1963/64.
Awards: Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year 1968; European Footballer of the Year 1968, Texaco Award Winner (Annual Contribution to Irish Football) 1967; NASL All-Star Team 1976, 1977; NASL Second Team 1981; NASL Honourable Mention Team 1978; International Hall of Champions Inductee 1997; International Hall of Fame Inductee 2000; PFA Special Merit Award 2006; PFA Division Two Team of the Year 1977.
The Greatest? Certainly his name deserves to be mentioned alongside Pele, Maradona, Cruyff et al, and he was our “Belfast Boy”…