Samuel Baxter McIlroy, Northern Irish footballer who plays for Manchester United, Stoke City, Manchester City, Örgryte IS (Sweden), Bury, VfB Mödling (Austria), Preston North End and the Northern Ireland national team, is born on August 2, 1954, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
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 begins his managerial career as player-coach under John McGrath at Preston North End in 1991. He then goes on to manage non-league team Ashton United and Northwich Victoria before joining Macclesfield Town for six and a half seasons, culminating in their promotion to the English Football League (EFL) in 1997.
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.