Billy Bingham (August 1931 – June 2022)
Billy Bingham, the former Clarets scout and the most successful manager of the Northern Ireland International football team, has died at the age of 90. The former Northern Ireland manager was diagnosed with dementia in 2006 and he died peacefully in a nursing home in Southport on Thursday evening.
Renowned as a master tactician, Bingham guided the boys in green to the 1982 & 1986 FIFA World Cup Finals. Northern Ireland were the last winners of the now defunct British Championship, lifting the trophy in 1984. Bingham also managed Everton Football Club and the Greece National side whilst playing for Northern Ireland at the 1958 FIFA World Cup Finals in Sweden.
The Irish Football Association said it had learned of Bingham’s death with “great sadness”. 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 & 1986 finals,” said Northern Ireland’s football governing body.
During his second spell in charge, Northern Ireland pulled off some unlikely victories, most notably when they stunned 1982 FIFA World Cup hosts Spain on a famous Friday night in Valencia when Gerry Armstrong scored the winner. The 1-0 win in stiflingly hot conditions remains one of the most remarkable upsets in World Cup history.
Bingham’s club career included helping Everton Football Club win the English League title in 1963, as a manager he was renowned for getting the most out of the limited resources at his disposal, although most of Northern Ireland’s players were operating in the top flight of the English game. Before entering management, Bingham, the son of a shipyard worker, had been a successful player, starting with Irish League side Glentoran on a reported £6 a week before moving to England.
He operated in a wide attacking role or an outside-right as the position was then known. Bingham joined First Division club Sunderland as a nineteen year old prospect in 1950, making his international debut the following year. He was in the Northern Ireland team which achieved stunning victories over Portugal and Italy to qualify for the 1958 FIFA World Cup Finals, the first time the country had reached that stage, and played in all five games as Peter Doherty’s men reached the quarter-finals in Sweden.
A few months later Bingham, having lost his place in the Sunderland side, joined Luton Town and was in the team beaten 2-1 by Nottingham Forest in the 1959 FA Cup final. He then switched to Everton and won the 1963 First Division Championship with the club. Bingham finished his playing career with Port Vale, his career cut short at thirty-three years old when he sustained a broken leg. Back in the 1960’s his fifty-six international appearances was at that time a record he held jointly with Danny Blanchflower.
A move into management saw Bingham take charge of Fourth Division Southport leading them to promotion in 1967. He later combined that post with the international role as he took charge of Northern Ireland for the first time and just missed out on getting them to the 1970 FIFA World Cup Finals in Mexico. Bingham, then had a spell in control of Plymouth Argyle before taking charge of Linfield, steering them to the Irish League Championship and success in three cup competitions.
He left the Linfield and Northern Ireland International jobs to become manager of Greece, but left that post after winning just two matches out of twelve, moving on to spells with Everton, Greek outfit PAOK and Mansfield Town. Billy Bingham was appointed manager of Northern Ireland for a second time in 1980 and it was to prove a golden era for the team in green.
After beating Spain in their own backyard in the 1982 FIFA World Cup Finals, Northern Ireland’s interest ended with a draw against Austria and defeat by France but Espana ’82 remains a highlight of Northern Ireland sporting history. Home and away victories over West Germany followed as Northern Ireland went close to qualifying for the European Championships in 1982.
They did, however, qualify for another World Cup thanks to a 1-0 win in Romania followed by a 0-0 draw against England at Wembley. Bingham’s side would not repeat the heroics of 1982, drawing with Algeria and losing to Spain and Brazil. However, reaching back-to-back World Cups was an incredible achievement and Northern Ireland have not been appeared at the finals since. Bingham’s last match as Northern Ireland boss was a fractious 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, the point earning the visitors a place in USA ’94.
After leaving management, Billy Bingham acted as Director of Football at Blackpool Football Club in the 1990s and then, at the age of seventy-six he took on a scouting role with Burnley Football Club in 2008. Bingham, has always had a soft spot for the Clarets having selected Billy Hamilton, Tommy Cassidy and Paul McGee for his Northern Ireland International sides.