How do you judge a category which produced some great strikers over the years yet so many ultimately failed to deliver on the international stage for Northern Ireland (well in terms of goals scored). Those that did, played the game when war interrupted their careers, or when the Irish Football Association Selection Committee chopped and changed those players selected ultimately led to the lack of a proper goal scoring record until David Healy in the 21st Century. One striker, Johnny Crossan was even banned from playing in British football for years!
It is worth noting not just the amount of goals a player scored but their actual goals per game ratio and their club careers.
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 26th February 2016 at 20:00
Name: Wilbur ‘Billy’ Cush
Born: 10 June 1928, Lurgan
Height: 5.05 ft
Weight: 11.07 st
Died: 25 July 1981, Lurgan
Position: Half-Back / Inside-Forward
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 26 Full Caps / 6 Goals (1950-1961); Irish League: Caps (1948-1964).
Club Honours: (with Glenavon) Irish League Champion 1951/52, 1956/57; Irish Cup Winner 1956/57, Runner-Up 1955/56; Gold Cup Winner 1954/55, 1956/57; Ulster Cup Winner 1954/55; City Cup Winner 1954/55, 1955/56; (with Portadown) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1961/62.
Awards: Ulster Footballer of the Year 1957.
The diminutive but barrel-chested Wilbur Cush played 26 times for Northern Ireland in six different positions – he was equally at home either attacking or defending. A “terrier” with a “heart bigger than his body” he could not be intimidated by larger opponents.
Name: Peter Doherty
Born: 5 June 1913, Magherafelt
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 12.07 st
Died: 6 April 1990, Fleetwood, near Blackpool
Representative Honours: Ireland: 16 Full Caps/3 Goals (1935-1950), 2 Victory International Caps (1945-1946); Football League: 1 Cap/1 Goal.
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Irish Cup Winner 1932/33; (with Manchester City) Football League Champion 1936/37; FA Charity Shield Winner 1937; (with Derby County) FA Cup Winner 1945/46; (with Doncaster Rovers) Football League Division Three (North) Champion 1949/50.
Described by many who saw him play in person that he was George Best’s equal and right up there among the greats of international football. Unfortunately for Peter his career spanned the duration of World War II which prevented him from reaching the same stature as his camaraderies.
Name: Billy Gillespie
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 11.00 st
Born: 6 August 1891, Kerrykeel, Co. Donegal
Died: 2 July 1981, Bexley, Kent (England)
Representative Honours: Ireland: 25 Full Caps/12 Goals (1913-1930).
Club Honours: (with Sheffield United) FA Cup Winner 1924/25.
Sheffield United’s most capped player, Billy Gillespie’s two decade Football League career brought over one hundred goals and an FA Cup success. There was also the small matter of a British Championship success, and an Irish goal scoring record that stood for almost eighty years…
Name: Colin Clarke
Born: 30 October 1962, Newry
Height: 5.11 ft
Weight: 12.10 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 38 Full Caps / 13 Goals (1986-1992).
If it wasn’t for a stuttering start and a premature end to his career, Colin Clarke may have become considered a much bigger star in the history of Northern Ireland football. As it was he made his international bow at 23 and his final appearance at 30, scoring, a then record, 13 goals in 38 caps.
Name: Gerry Armstrong
Height: 6.00 ft
Weight: 13.00 st
Born: 23 May 1954, Belfast
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 63 Full Caps / 12 Goals (1977-1986)
Club Honours: (with Bangor) Co. Antrim Shield 1974/75; (with Spurs) Football League Division Two Third (promoted) 1977/78; (with Watford) Football League Division One Runner-Up 1982/83; Football League Division Two Runner-Up 1981/82.
Awards: British Player of the Tournament World Cup 1982.
“Gerry Armstrong, what a worker he is… Striding away there with Hamilton to his right and Whiteside up on the far side of the area… Still Billy Hamilton, he’s gone past Tendillo… Arconada… ARMSTRONG!”
Name: Jimmy Quinn
Born: 18 November 1959, Belfast
Height: 6.01 ft
Weight: 11.06 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 46 Full Caps/12 Goals (1984-1995).
Club Honours: (with West Ham) Football League Division Two Runner-Up 1990/91 (promoted); (with Reading) Football League Division One Runner-Up 1994/95 (not promoted-lost in Play-Off Final); Football League Division Two Champion 1993/94; (with Shrewsbury) Football Conference Play-Off Winner 2003/04 (promoted).
Quinn was a full international for Northern Ireland for 11 years, winning 46 caps and scoring 12 goals, making him one of the highest scorers in their history. His goals included a volley from outside the area against Northern Ireland’s neighbours Republic of Ireland, and the goal which helped Northern Ireland qualify for the 1986 World Cup; his goal against Romania in a 1–0 was followed up by a 0–0 draw against England to secure qualification for a second successive World Cup Finals.
Name: Joe Bambrick
Born: 3 November 1905, Belfast
Died: 13 October 1983, Belfast
Height: 5.11 ft
Weight: 11.02 st
Representative Honours: Ireland: 11 Full Caps/12 Goals (1928-1938), 1 Amateur Cap (1926), Junior; Irish League: 12 Caps/9 Goals (1927-1932); Ireland/Wales (1935).
Club Honours: (with Glentoran) Charity Cup Runner-Up 1926/27; (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1929/30, 1931/32, 1933/34, 1934/35, Runner-Up 1927/28, 1928/29, 1930/31; Irish Cup Winner 1929/30, 1933/34, Runner-Up 1931/32; City Cup Winner 1928/29, Runner-Up 1927/28, 1930/31, 1932/33; Gold Cup Winner 1927/28, 1928/29, Runner-Up 1932/33, 1934/35; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1927/28, 1928/29, 1929/30, 1931/32, 1932/33, 1933/34, Runner-Up 1942/43; Charity Cup Runner-Up 1931/32, 1938/39 (as guest).
Joe Bambrick, a former gas worker of medium build, was a prolific goalscorer, adept at getting into good scoring positions and athletic enough to make the final touch count. “Head, heel or toe, Slip it to Joe” became a famous catch-phrase when referring to him. His scoring of 6 goals for Ireland v Wales at Celtic Park on the 1st February 1930 in a 7-0 win, still remains the record score for a British Isles player in an international fixture.
Name: Kyle Lafferty
Born: 21 July 1987, Enniskillen
Height: 6.04 ft
Weight: 11.02 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: Full Caps (2006-date), 2 Under-21 Caps (2006); 5 Under-19 Caps / 1 Goal; 5 Under-17 Caps.
Club Honours: (with Rangers) Scottish League Champion 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11; Scottish League Cup Winner 2010/11, Runner-Up 2008/09; (with Palermo) Serie B Champion 2013/14.
Awards: Northern Ireland International Personality of the Year 2015.
Lanky striker of immense promise, Kyle Lafferty had already been marked for greatness. Handed his international debut during the 2006 US Tour, he played in that summer’s Milk Cup Tournament, then promptly scored his first Full international goal at the start of the 2006/07 season. His goals almost single-handedly took Northern Ireland to the 2016 European Championship Finals in France.
Name: Olphert Stanfield
Born: 26 February 1869, Corcreaney Townland, Hillsborough
Died: 13 March 1952
Representative Honours: Ireland: 30 Full Caps / 11 Goals (1887-1897); Irish League: 6 Caps / 1 Goal (1894-1897).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Irish League Champion 1895/96; Irish Cup Winner 1888/89, 1893/94, 1895/96, Runner-Up 1887/88; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1888/89, 1895/96, 1896/97.
Olphie played for Distillery and Ireland during the 1880s and 1890s. Stanfield was a complete forward, capable of scoring with either foot and his head. He was also comfortable playing as centre-forward, inside-left or inside-right. He was the most capped international footballer during the 19th century, Ireland’s record goal scorer during the 19th century and remains the most capped Distillery player of all time.
Name: Jimmy McIlroy MBE
Born: 25 October 1931, Lambeg
Height: 5.09 ft
Weight: 12.01 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 55 Full Caps / 10 Goals (1951-1965); Football League: 2 Caps (1960); Great Britain (1955).
Club Honours: (with Burnley) Football League Champion 1959/60, Runner-Up 1961/62; FA Cup Runner-Up 1961/62; (with Stoke) Football League Division Two Champions 1962/63.
The elegant play of Jimmy McIlroy is still talked about by those who saw him play. Unhurried, coolness personified – without his attributes would the team of ’58 have achieved so much?
Name: David Healy MBE
Born: 5 August 1979, Killyleagh
Height: 5.08 ft
Weight: 10.09 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 95 Full Caps / 36 Goals (2000-2013), 1 ‘B’ Cap (1999), 8 Under-21 Caps / 4 Goals (1998-1999), 5 Under-18 Caps / 2 Goals, 2 Under-16 Caps / 1 Goals; 10 Schoolboy Caps (1995).
Awards: BBC NI Sports Personality of the Year 2005, 2007; NI International Personality of the Year 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008; MBE 2008.
David is the all-time leading scorer for Northern Ireland with 36 goals some of which were ‘worldies’ against major nations, third in caps earned behind Pat Jennings and Aaron Hughes, and he also holds the record for the highest scoring tally during a UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign with 13. Not bad for a player whose club career was lacklustre!
Name: Billy McAdams
Born: 20 January 1934, Belfast
Died: 13 October 2002, Barrow-in-Furness (England)
Height: 5.11 ft
Position: 11.09 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 15 Full Caps / 7 Goals (1954-1962).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Co. Antrim Shield Runner-Up 1952/53; (with Brentford) Football League Division Four Champions 1962/63; (with Barrow) Football League Division Four Third (promoted) 1966/67.
The first British player to score a hat-trick against West Germany, Billy McAdams didn’t need the help of a Russian linesman – he didn’t end up on the winning side either…
Name: Johnny Crossan
Born: 29 November 1938, Londonderry
Height: 5.08½ ft
Position: 11.05 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 24 Full Caps / 10 Goals (1959-1967), 1 B Cap (1959); 3 Amateur Caps (1957-1958), Youth Caps.
Club Honours: (with Derry City) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1956/57; (with Sunderland) Football League Division Two Runner-Up 1963/64; (with Manchester City) Football League Division Two Champion 1965/66.
A player who was at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Irish football, Jobby Crossan honed his game on the Continent before returning to make a delayed impact on the English game…
Name: Billy Hamilton
Born: 9 May 1957, Belfast
Height: 6.01 ft
Position: 12.00 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 41 Full Caps/5 Goals (1978-1986); 1 Under-21 Cap (1978); Irish League: 1 Cap (1990).
Club Honours: (with Linfield) Irish League Champion 1977/78; Irish Cup Winner 1977/78; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1976/77; Ulster Cup Winner 1977/78; (with Burnley) Football League Division Three Champion 1982/83; (with Oxford) Football League Division Two Champion 1984/85; (with Limerick) Munster Senior Cup Winner 1988/89.
The creator of Northern Ireland’s most famous ever goal, Billy Hamilton’s work-rate and determination made him a legend wherever he played…
Name: Derek Dougan
Born: 20 January 1938, Belfast
Died: 24 June 2007, Wolverhampton (England)
Height: 6.03 ft
Position: 12.06 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 43 Full Caps/8 Goals (1958-1973), 2 B Caps/3 Goals (1957-1959), 2 Amateur Caps (1956-1957), Youth Caps, 3 Schoolboy Caps (1952).
Club Honours: (with Distillery) Irish Cup Winner 1955/56; (with Blackburn) FA Cup Runner-Up 1959/60; (with Wolves) Football League Division Two Runner-Up (promoted) 1966/67; Football League Cup Winner 1973/74; UEFA Cup Runner-Up 1971/72; Texaco Cup Winner 1971/72; (with L.A. Wolves) US Soccer Assocition Champion 1967; (with Kansas City Spurs) NASL International Cup Winner 1969.
The word “controversial” would not do justice to Derek Dougan’s footballing career, and his antics in the thirty-odd years after he retired from playing…
Name: Iain Dowie
Born: 9 January 1965, Hatfield (England)
Height: 6.01 ft
Position: 13.11 st
Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 59 Full Caps/12 Goals (1990-1999), 1 Under-23 Cap (1989), 1 Under-21 Cap/1 Goal (1990).
Club Honours: (with Southampton) Full Members Cup Runner-Up 1991/92.
Awards: NI International Personality of the Year 1995.
The term “Cult Hero” could have been invented for Iain Dowie, not the most talented of players, not the most prolific of goalscorers, but he would have done anything for the cause…