Blanchflower’s first appearance in a professional game is for Manchester United on November 24, 1951, against Liverpool, away at Anfield. He becomes a regular first team player in the 1953–54 season, when he plays in 27 out of 42 league games and scores 13 goals as an inside-forward.
Blanchflower helps the club win the league title in 1956 and again in 1957. Nicknamed “Twiggy” by his teammates, he is renowned for his versatility. He begins his career as a left-half before the emergence of Duncan Edwards in this position, at which time he switches to the forward positions. The Manchester United manager, Matt Busby, recognises his intelligent positioning sense and aerial power and chooses to play him at centre-half by the 1955–56 season, with John Doherty and Billy Whelan now competing for his former position. He faces fierce competition for the solitary centre-half place due to the presence of Mark Jones. He covers in goal in the 1957 FA Cup Final while Ray Wood receives treatment for an injury suffered in a collision with Peter McParland, who scores both of Aston Villa‘s goals as United loses 2–1. Blanchflower also plays in some of United’s first European Cup fixtures.
Blanchflower scores 27 goals during his time with Manchester United, most of them during his time as a forward.
On February 6, 1958, the Manchester United team that had travelled to Belgrade for the second leg of a European cup tie have their chartered plane stop in Munich to refuel. Weather conditions cause the plane to crash when the pilot attempts to take-off from Munich airport and 23 of the 44 people on board are killed. Blanchflower is severely injured, suffering from a fractured pelvis and arms and legs, and crushed kidneys, and his right arm is nearly severed. He is in hospital for two months and, although not a Catholic, is read the last rites but survives.
Blanchflower tries to return to football, but never makes a full recovery. Doctors advise him not to return to football because of fears he would damage his kidney and, a year later, he retires from football. The Munich air disaster means that he had played his last game of football when still only 24 years old, having earned 12 caps for Northern Ireland, played well over 100 times for Manchester United and won two league championship medals.
Blanchflower marries his wife Jean in 1956 and eventually pursues studies in finance and begins a career as an accountant. He later becomes an after-dinner speaker and is a regular on the after-dinner circuits until his death from cancer on September 2, 1998. He is 65 years old, and just two weeks prior to his death he attended the Munich air disaster testimonial match at Old Trafford.
He is survived by his three children; Krista, Senior (born 1958), Laurie (born 1961) and Andrew (born 1963), as well as his wife, Jean, who dies in 2002 following a long illness.
McIlroy moves to English club Manchester United in 1969 becoming Sir Matt Busby‘s final signing. He makes his debut on November 6, 1971, in the Manchester derby against Manchester City, scoring in a 3–3 draw. He drifts in and out of the side and plays in 31 matches in 1973–74 as Manchester United suffers a rare relegation. He is an ever-present in 1974–75 playing in all of the club’s 51 fixtures as they gain an instant return to the First Division. On their return they finish in third place and also reach the 1976 FA Cup Final where they lose 1–0 to Southampton.
A year later, McIlroy picks up a winner’s medal as United triumphs 2–1 against Liverpool. A runners-up medal in the FA Cup follows two years after that as Manchester United are defeated 3–2 by Arsenal, with McIlroy equalising for United having been 2–0 down, only for Alan Sunderland to dramatically win it for Arsenal minutes afterwards. After spending ten seasons at Old Trafford, making 419 appearances and scoring 71 goals, he leaves for Stoke City in February 1982.
Stoke City pays Manchester United a club record fee of £350,000 for McIlroy on February 2, 1982. He arrives at Stoke with the club in deep relegation trouble in 1981–82 and he plays in 18 matches as Stoke avoids the drop by two points. In 1982–83 Stoke has a solid midfield with McIlroy playing alongside former Manchester United teammate Mickey Thomas, Mark Chamberlain and Paul Bracewell and the side finishes in a mid-table position of 13th in 1982–83. However the 1983–84 season sees Stoke struggle again and McIlroy and the returning Alan Hudson help Stoke stage a revival which sees they stay up by two points. In 1984–85 Stoke suffers an embarrassing relegation going down with a then record low points tally of 17 with McIlroy winning the Stoke City F.C. Player of the Year award. He is handed a free transfer in the summer of 1985 and goes on to play at Manchester City in the 1985–86 season, Swedish club Örgryte IS in 1986, Bury from 1986 to 1989 and Preston North End from 1989 to 1991. McIlroy’s last club as a player is with Northwich Victoria from 1991 to 1993.
As a player for the Northern Ireland national team, McIlroy wins 88 caps and scores 5 goals. He plays in all of the country’s matches during both the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where Northern Ireland defeats the host nation Spain and advances to the second round, and the 1986 FIFA World Cup in which he captains the team. He is also part of the Northern Ireland side which wins the 1983-84 British Home Championship.
McIlroy arrives at the Moss Rose in 1993 replacing Peter Wragg who had narrowly avoided relegation the previous season. His first season at the Moss Rose sees a very creditable seventh-place finish and the Bob Lord Trophy. His second season surpasses all expectations as his skilful and flowing football brings the Silkmen a conference title, only to be denied promotion to the English Football League thanks to ground regulations. The following season the Silkmen beat Northwich Victoria 3–1 at Wembley to win the club’s second FA Trophy. In the red letter season of 1996-97 the Silkmen secure promotion to the English Football League for the first time in 120 years. The success continues the following year beginning with a home win over Torquay United. The Silkmen finish the season unbeaten at home and are promoted into the Football League Second Division in second place. But the promotion is a bridge too far for the rapidly rising club as the Silkmen finish at the bottom of the division. McIlroy leaves the Moss Rose in 1999 to take up the position at his own national team.
McIlroy manages Northern Ireland for nearly three years, but the team wins only five times in 29 matches, with all of the wins occurring in his first year. The side fails to score even a single goal in 8 qualifying matches for UEFA Euro 2004, but does achieve a respectable 0–0 draw against Spain. Upon completion of the qualifying matches, he resigns to re-enter club management with Stockport County. He spends just over a year at Edgeley Park which sees him win 14 matches.
On November 17, 2005, McIlroy takes over as caretaker manager of Conference side Morecambe, stepping in for incumbent manager Jim Harvey who had suffered a heart attack. Having guided Morecambe into the Conference play-offs, where they lose 4–3 on aggregate to Hereford United, he is appointed permanent manager in May 2006. In his first full season, Morecambe again reaches the play-offs where they defeat Exeter City to win promotion to the English Football League in one of the first games played at the new Wembley Stadium.
McIlroy guides Morecambe to a respectable 11th-place finish in 2007–08, the club’s inaugural season in the English Football League, as well as leading the side to League Cup scalps against Preston North End and Wolverhampton Wanderers. In 2008–09, he again secures an 11th-place finish League Two. Morecambe’s third season in the English Football League sees them surpass their highest ever finishes of the previous two seasons, with McIlroy steering the Shrimps to a 4th-place finish, and participation in the League Two playoff semi-finals. However, a 6–0 capitulation away at eventual winners Dagenham & Redbridge in the first leg renders the second leg virtually irrelevant, although McIlroy motivates his team to secure a 2–1 victory, in what is the final match to be played at Christie Park, Morecambe’s home for 89 years. On May 9, 2011, McIlroy leaves Morecambe by mutual consent after a 20th-place finish in the league.
Morrow makes his full international debut for Northern Ireland in May 1990 against Uruguay. He goes on to win 39 caps for his country from then until 1999.
Morrow becomes a semi-regular with Arsenal in 1992–93. He plays most of his matches in midfield, replacing the injured Paul Davis as Arsenal reaches the League Cup and FA Cup finals. He starts the League Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday. After falling behind to a John Harkes goal, Arsenal equalises through Paul Merson, and then Merson sets up Morrow to score the winner, which is also his first for the club. In the celebrations after the match, Arsenal skipper Tony Adams attempts to pick up Morrow and parade him on his shoulders, but Adams slips and Morrow awkwardly hits the ground. He breaks his arm and has to be rushed to hospital.
As a result, Morrow misses the rest of that season, including the 1993 FA Cup Final, where Arsenal completes the Cup Double. Before the final kicks off, he receives his League Cup winners’ medal.
Morrow is fit enough by the start of the next season but plays only 13 matches, compared to 25 the previous season. One of those is the scene of an Arsenal triumph, the club’s 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final win over Parma. In an Arsenal midfield depleted of John Jensen and David Hillier, he makes his first appearance in the competition that season partnering 20-year-old Ian Selley in central midfield as Arsenal beats Parma 1–0 with an Alan Smith goal.
Morrow nearly leaves the club in March 1994, following an approach from the Premier League‘s bottom club Swindon Town, but the transfer falls through and he signs a new contract with Arsenal, where he spends three more years.
Morrow goes on to play over 20 matches the following season, including a second Cup Winners’ Cup final, which Arsenal loses to Real Zaragoza. He scores his second Arsenal goal in the League Cup once again against Sheffield Wednesday, and scores his first Arsenal league goal in a 3–1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, who win the Premier League that season. However, he never finds favour under new Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch, who only gives the Irishman five matches in 1995–96.
After the arrival of Arsène Wenger in 1996, Morrow is told he is surplus to requirements at Highbury, and he is loaned to Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in March 1997, the deal being made permanent that summer. He plays 85 games for Arsenal in total, scoring three goals.
At QPR, Morrow is initially a regular, but the club struggles, going from contenders for promotion to the Premiership to facing relegation to the Football League Second Division. Injuries to his shoulder ligaments ruled him out for most of the 1999–2000 season, and he loses his place in the side. He later has a loan spell at Peterborough United, but it does not become permanent, and he is released on a free transfer in the summer of 2001.
On February 3, 2004, Morrow is named as an assistant coach to FC Dallas but resigns in late May due to personal reasons. However, he returns to the club on January 27, 2005 under coach Colin Clarke. When Clarke is fired on November 7, 2006, Morrow is named interim head coach. On December 11, 2006, FC Dallas removes the ‘interim’ from his title. He is fired as coach on May 20, 2008.
On September 12, 2008 Morrow returns to Arsenal as International Partnerships – Performance Supervisor, managing Arsenal’s international partnerships, which includes the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer in the United States, BEC Tero of Thailand and Hoàng Anh Gia Lai of Vietnam, and assisting Arsenal’s academies in countries such as Egypt and Ghana. From 2014, he works as Arsenal’s head of youth development. He leaves Arsenal in 2019 following a coaching staff shake up.
On May 7, 2021, Morrow is appointed The FA’s head of player selection and talent strategy working across England men’s teams.
McGrath is born to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father. His father disappears soon after his conception. His mother, Betty McGrath, is terrified that her father will find out she had become pregnant outside marriage and in an interracial relationship. She travels in secret to London to have her child, who is considered illegitimate, and gives him up for fostering when he is four weeks old. When he is five years old, the family he had been fostered by comes to Betty saying they cannot control him. Betty places him into an orphanage.
McGrath begins as a schoolboy with Pearse Rovers and plays junior football for Dalkey United. While at the latter, he attracts the attention of Manchester United scout Billy Behan. Before becoming a full-time professional with League of Ireland club St. Patrick’s Athletic in 1981, he briefly works as an apprentice metal worker and a security guard in Dublin.
In 1985–86, it appears that McGrath is on course to pick up a league title medal after United wins their first 10 league games of the season, but injuries to key players including Bryan Robson soon take their toll on the side and they eventually finish fourth in the table, 12 points behind champions Liverpool F.C. Despite a dismal start to the 1986–87 season and a managerial change, McGrath remains a regular member of the first team. United finishes second behind Liverpool in the league a year later.
By the 1988–89 season, McGrath is struggling with knee injuries and is becoming a less regular member of the first team. His relationship with manager Alex Ferguson is becoming strained, as McGrath’s alcohol addiction and physical problems lead to United offering him a retirement package of £100,000. He refuses and Ferguson begins to inform clubs of his availability. Aston Villa’s offer is accepted and McGrath signs on August 3, 1989 for a fee of £400,000.
While at Aston Villa, McGrath plays some of the best football of his career, despite recurrent knee problems. Villa comes close to winning the title in his first season, finishing second to Liverpool. In the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93), Aston Villa again finishes as runners-up, behind Manchester United. As a sign of the regard he is now held in by his fellow professionals, McGrath wins the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award at the end of the season. He wins his first trophy with Villa, defeating Manchester United in the 1993–94 Football League Cup. In 1996 he wins a second League Cup for Villa. By the end of his Villa career he has chalked up 323 appearances for the club.
McGrath departs Aston Villa in the autumn of 1996, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. He is sold to Derby County for £200,000 and helps the newly promoted Rams finish 12th in its first Premier League season. He then drops down a division to sign for Sheffield United F.C. in the summer of 1997. He plays his final game as a professional for Sheffield United against Ipswich Town F.C. on November 9, 1997. He officially retires at the end of the season.
In McGrath’s international career he wins his first full cap against Italy in 1985, last playing 12 years later, against Wales. During that time, he is often regarded as the single most influential player Ireland has in the national team’s glory days.
In McGrath’s international career he is a major part of the breakthrough of Ireland’s national team of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the early part of Jack Charlton‘s era, he plays as a defensive midfielder, due to the wealth of talent Ireland has in defence. In UEFA Euro 1988, as the national side first qualifies for an international tournament, he is present in the 1–0 group stage win against England.
In 1990, Ireland qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup, eventually reaching the quarter-finals, where they lose to Italy 1-0, with McGrath ever present in the lineups. He captains the team four times in 1992 after the retirement of Mick McCarthy, and ignores a painful shoulder virus to play in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
In Ireland’s opening game of the 1994 World Cup, a 1–0 win against favourites Italy, in a perfect example of his commitment to the game, McGrath puts up an astonishing defensive performance in spite of excruciating knee problems. Even after his retirement from international football in 1997, he is still regarded today as one of the greatest players ever to put on Ireland’s green shirt.
Upon retiring, McGrath settles in Monageer, County Wexford. In 2004, one year after being taken to court, charged with a breach of the peace, he returns to the football world after five years, moving to Waterford F.C. in Ireland as director of football.
In 2011, McGrath launches a singing career with a cover version of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King song “Goin’ Back.” The recording is followed by the planning of an album of covers by the footballer, with a percentage of the album’s proceeds going to the Acquired Brain Injury Foundation and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Ireland.
Campbell wins a total of 22 caps for Ireland from 1976–1984, scoring 217 test points. His international career is more brief than this span suggests, however, as he plays only four full seasons for Ireland from 1980–1984. Of his career totals, he wins 22 caps and scores 182 points in the Five Nations tournament. He tours twice with Ireland, to Australia in 1979 and to South Africa in 1981.
Campbell wins his first cap for Ireland at the age of 21 against Australia in 1976, but does not secure another cap with Ireland until 1979 during Ireland’s 1979 tour to Australia. He sets an Irish record on the 1979 tour to Australia when he scors 60 points, 19 of them in Brisbane which is an Irish record for points in a match against Australia.
The defining moment in Campbell’s career comes in 1982, with Campbell as the architect-in-chief of Ireland’s 1982 Triple Crown victory, Ireland’s first since 1949. Ireland enters the tournament winless in its past eight matches. Campbell starts the 1982 Five Nations by scoring eight points in Ireland’s 20–12 win against Wales, and also playing a major hand in all three of Ireland’s tries. He then scores another eight points in the following match, a 16–15 win against England. In Ireland’s third match, he kicks all of Ireland’s 21 points, including a career best 6 penalties, against Scotland at Lansdowne Road to secure the Triple Crown. He is the leading scorer in the 1982 Five Nations with 46 points.
In the 1983 Five Nations Championship, Campbell leads Ireland to a joint Five Nations Championship shared with France. He is again the tournament’s leading scorer with 52 points, and scores 21 points against England to set an Irish record for most points against England in a Five Nations match. He plays his last match for Ireland in 1984 against Wales.
Campbell is also capped seven times for the British & Irish Lions. He earns three caps in the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa, where he is the Lions’ leading scorer in the last two tests with six and five points respectively. He earns another four caps in the 1983 Lions tour to New Zealand, where he is the Lions’ leading scorer in the four test matches with 15 points. He scores 184 points in total for the Lions.
Campbell retires from rugby in 1986 following two years of struggles with hamstring injuries. In 2007 he is presented with the Newbridge RFC Legend in Rugby Award along with the Irish Rugby Squad which won the 1982 Triple Crown and elected an Honorary Life Member of Newbridge RFC. He has worked in the family clothing business since retirement from rugby in 1984.
Old Belvedere’s sportsground on Anglesea Road in Dublin is renamed Ollie Campbell Park in his honour in 2019.
Best spends most of his club career at Manchester United. Named European Footballer of the Year in 1968, he is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. A highly skillful winger, considered by several pundits to be one of the greatest dribblers in the history of the sport, he receives plaudits for his playing style, which combines pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders.
In international football, Best is capped 37 times for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977. A combination of the team’s performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 means that he never plays in the finals of a major tournament. He considers his international career as being “recreational football,” with the expectations placed on a smaller nation in Northern Ireland being much less than with his club. He is regarded as one of the greatest players never to have played at a World Cup. The Irish Football Association describes him as the “greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland.”
With his good looks and playboy lifestyle, Best becomes one of the first media celebrity footballers, earning the nickname “El Beatle” in 1966, but his extravagant lifestyle leads to various personal problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffers from for the rest of his life. These issues affect him on and off the field, often causing controversy. Although conscious of his problems, he is publicly not contrite about them. He says of his career, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds [women] and fast cars – the rest I just squandered.” After football, Best spends some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continue into his retirement.
On October 3, 2005, Best is admitted to intensive care at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from a kidney infection caused by the side effects of immunosuppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver. In the early hours of November 25, 2005, treatment is stopped. Later that day he dies, aged 59, as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure. He is interred beside his mother in a private ceremony at Roselawn Cemetery, overlooking east Belfast.