Sammy McIlroy is a former Northern Ireland international footballer who played for Manchester Utd, Stoke City, Manchester City, Orgyte (Sweden), Bury, Preston North End.
He his best remembered for his time at Old Trafford (Manchester Utd 1971 – 1982) where he started playing as a teenager in the famous Law, Best & Charlton side in the early seventies. Indeed debuts, don’t come much more unnerving than the Manchester derby, but the 17 year-old McIlroy came through his baptism of fire with flying colours – scoring once and assisting twice at Maine Road to instantly endear himself to the United faithful.
The Northern Irish winger was Matt Busby’s final signing at Old Trafford, penning amateur forms with United in August 1969. He turned professional two years later before his derby bow on November 6, 1971. His emphatic entrance to the first-team setup didn’t seal a regular starting berth, and McIlroy largely remained a substitute for the next year.
Seriously injured in a car accident in January 1973, he fought his way back into the team against all odds the following season to earn himself a regular place in the starting line-up. That season ended with the gloom of relegation, but McIlroy was a permanent and crucial fixture in the side that secured an instant return to the top flight.
His domestic importance was matched on the international scene, and he went on to win 88 caps for Northern Ireland scoring 5 goals. He played in all of the country’s matches during both the 1982 World Cup, where Northern Ireland defeated the host nation Spain and advanced to the second round, and the 1986 World Cup in which he captained the team. He was also part of the Northern Ireland side which won the final Home Internationals Championships (1983 – 1984).
Sammy remained an integral part of the Man Utd side which went to Wembley three times in four years in the late 1970s. He tasted heartbreak in the 1976 and 1979 defeats to Southampton and Arsenal, although he did score a fine equaliser in the 79 final, only to go on to lose in the final minute of the game. The match is one that Sammy is asked about more than any other which drives him mad considering the FA cup final victory over Liverpool in 1977 where the team (underdogs on the day) stopped Liverpool from wining a unprecedented treble.
After finish playing, he managed several English football teams and became the Northern Ireland National team (2002 – 2003), having gained much success with Macclesfield Town (1993 – 2000). He was most recently the manager of Football League Two side Morecambe (2005 – 2011)
As a Player
- Football League Second Division: 1974-75
- FA Cup: 1977
- FA Charity Shield 1977 (shared)
- Stoke City Player of the Year: 1985
As a Manager
- Football Conference: 1994-95, 1996-97
- Conference League Cup: 1993-94
- FA Trophy: 1995-96
- Conference National play-offs: 2006-07
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.
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