Billy Bingham, who led Northern Ireland to successive World Cups in 1982 and 1986, has died aged 90. He had been living with dementia for 16 years.
Bingham made 227 appearances for Sunderland and won the league championship with Everton in 1963, but it was with Northern Ireland, for whom he won 56 caps and managed for a total of 17 years, that he experienced its most famous successes.
Born in east Belfast and an electrical engineer by trade, he was part of the Northern Ireland team that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1958. They did not qualify again until until Bingham guided them to Spain in 1982, when Gerry Armstrong’s famous goal beat hosts Valencia and Mexico four years later. Northern Ireland have not qualified for a World Cup since. He also won the British Championship with Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1984.
In a statement, Bingham’s son David said: “Dad was diagnosed with dementia in 2006 and I think it’s a tribute to his will that he has made it through another 16 years from that diagnosis until time of his death. He passed away peacefully last night at 10.30pm in a care home in Southport. We are very proud of all that our father has achieved.
The Irish Football Association also paid tribute to their former coach. “Billy holds a unique place in the heart of Northern Ireland football,” the Irish FA said in a statement. “Billy was a tricky winger back when such a position was revered, but there was more to him than playing off the wing.
“Billy wasn’t afraid to mix it up when needed, had an eye for goal and a wonderful tactical and positional brain – attributes that would stand out in his managerial career. He was everything a north manager -Irish must be: tactically astute, innovative and inspiring.
“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 against Germany in the West during the qualification for the Euro in 1984.
“His greatest achievement was probably the team’s qualification for the second phase of the World Cup in 1982 with the historic and unexpected victory over Spain in Valencia. The Association would like to extend its condolences to Billy’s extended family circle.
Bingham came through the ranks at Glentoran before joining Sunderland in 1950. He also had spells with Luton, Everton and Port Vale, where a broken leg forced him to retire aged 33. In his first managerial post, he led Southport to promotion from the Fourth Division.
He then combined his first four-year spell as Northern Ireland manager with jobs at Plymouth Argyle and Linfield before managing Greece for 18 months. In 1973 he took over from his former manager Harry Catterick at Everton, where he came close to winning the league in 1974-75 but was sacked in January 1977.
“Everton Football Club are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Billy Bingham MBE,” the club said on Friday. “Everyone at Everton’s thoughts are with Billy’s family and friends.” Bingham also managed PAOK Salonika and Mansfield Town until he began his second hugely successful 13-year spell as Northern Ireland manager in 1980.