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Former Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham dies aged 90

Former Nothern Ireland manager Billy Bingham guided his county to the World Cup finals twice (PA Archive/PA)
Former Nothern Ireland manager Billy Bingham guided his county to the World Cup finals twice (PA Archive/PA)

Former Northern Ireland international and manager Billy Bingham has died aged 90, his family announced on Friday.

Bingham twice guided Northern Ireland to the World Cup finals, first in 1982 when they famously beat hosts Spain, and again in 1986.

Born in East Belfast, Bingham, an outside right, was capped 56 times. He came through the ranks of Glentoran before joining Sunderland in 1950 and going on to have spells with Luton, Everton, whom he later also managed, and Port Vale.

In a statement, Bingham’s son David said: “Dad was diagnosed with dementia back in 2006 and I think it is a tribute to his will that he managed another 16 years from that diagnosis to the time he passed away.

“He passed away peacefully last night at 10.30pm in a care home in Southport.

“We are very proud of all our dad achieved.”

Bingham had been part of the Northern Ireland side which reached the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, only to lose to France.

It was Bingham’s goal which secured Luton victory in the 1959 FA Cup semi-final over then Third Division Norwich to reach Wembley, where they lost to Nottingham Forest.

He won the 1962–63 First Division title with Everton prior to moving into management, which included roles when he was also in charge of the Northern Ireland national team as well as a spell with Greece.

Bingham’s second stint as manager of his country began in 1980.

He went on to appoint future Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill as his captain, the first Catholic to have the honour bestowed on him during the Troubles, and received threatening letters as a result.

The 1980 British Championship success was Northern Ireland’s first in 66 years and was followed by a memorable World Cup campaign and a 1-0 victory over Spain at the Mestalla in Valencia.

Bingham, made an MBE for services to football in 1981, left the Northern Ireland job in 1993 and later worked as director of football at Blackpool.

The Irish Football Association paid tribute to Bingham.

“Billy holds a unique place in the football hearts of Northern Ireland in that he both played at and managed in World Cup final tournaments with Northern Ireland, being part of Peter Doherty’s historic team of 1958 in Sweden and then managing Northern Ireland in the 1982 and 1986 finals,” a statement on the Irish FA website read.

“Billy was a tricky winger in the days when such a position was revered, but there was more to him than wing play. Billy was not afraid to mix it when needed, had an eye for goal and had a wonderful tactical and positional brain – attributes which would come to the fore in his managerial career.

“He was everything that a Northern Ireland manager needs to be: tactically astute, innovative and inspirational.

“He led the team to British Championship glory in 1980 and 1984, qualified for two World Cups in 1982 and 1986, and recorded the first home and away victories over West Germany in the qualification for the Euros in ’84.

“His greatest achievement was probably the qualification of the team for the second phase of the World Cup in 1982 with the historic and unexpected victory over Spain in Valencia.

“The Association would wish to send its condolences to Billy’s wider family circle.”

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