Northern Ireland v Netherlands

Official Digital Matchday programme of Northern Ireland v Netherlands, Saturday 16th November at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

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Official Publication by Irish Football Association National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Donegall Avenue, Belfast, BT12 6LW Editor Nigel Tilson Design and Print Minprint Ltd, 401 Castlereagh Road, Belfast, Co Down, BT5 6QP Tel: 028 9070 5205

Irish Football Association President David Martin Chief Executive Patrick Nelson Advertising Irish Football Association Pictures Press Eye

Please note that the views in this programme do not necessarily reflect those of the Irish Football Association.



Ronald Koeman Manager

Michael O’Neill Manager

Trevor Carson Motherwell Michael McGovern Norwich City Bailey Peacock-Farrell Burnley Ciaron Brown Cardiff City Craig Cathcart Watford Jonathan Evans Leicester City Tom Flanagan Sunderland Jamal Lewis Norwich City Conor McLaughlin Sunderland Michael Smith Heart of Midlothian Stuart Dallas Leeds United Steven Davis Rangers Liam Donnelly Motherwell Corry Evans Blackburn Rovers Shane Ferguson Millwall Matthew Kennedy St Johnstone Niall McGinn Aberdeen Patrick McNair Middlesbrough George Saville Middlesbrough Jordan Thompson Blackpool Gavin Whyte Cardiff City Liam Boyce Burton Albion Kyle Lafferty Sarpsborg 08 (NOR)

Marco Bizot AZ Alkmaar Jasper Cillessen Valencia Jeroen Zoet PSV Patrick van Aanholt Crystal Palace Nathan Aké Bournemouth Daley Blind Ajax Virgil van Dijk Liverpool Matthijs de Ligt Juventus Denzel Dumfries PSV Eindhoven Joël Veltman Ajax

Stefan de Vrij Inter Milan Ryan Babel Galatasaray Donny van de Beek Ajax Steven Berghuis Feyenoord Frenkie de Jong Barcelona

Davy Pröpper Brighton & Hove Albion Marten de Roon Atalanta Bergamo Calvin Stengs AZ Alkmaar Kevin Strootman Olympique Marseille Georginio Wijnaldum Liverpool Myron Boadu AZ Alkmaar Memphis Depay Olympique Lyon

Luuk de Jong Sevilla Quincy Promes Ajax Wout Weghorst VfL Wolfsburg

Shayne Lavery Linfield Josh Magennis Hull City

Green and White

Orange and White


Referee Assistant Referee 1 Assistant Referee 2 Fourth Official

Szymon Marciniak POL Paweł Sokolnicki POL Tomasz Listkiewicz POL Tomasz Musiał POL Costas Kapitanis CYP Isabel Hochstoeger AUS

Observer Delegate



On behalf of the Irish Football Association it gives me great pleasure to welcome the officials, players and supporters of The Netherlands to Belfast and in particular to our National Football Stadium for this EURO 2020 Group C qualifying match.

The last two fixtures in Group C are upon us and we have the challenge of playing home and away against two of the top ten teams in world football inside a three-day period. Defeat at home to Germany in September was followed by a great display in Rotterdam against the Netherlands, but of course there was that disappointment of conceding two goals in added time and finishing on the wrong side of a 3-1 scoreline, which was considered harsh on the night. The squad then travelled to Prague where they achieved an excellent 3-2 win against the Czech Republic in the latest mandatory friendly. Tonight‘s game has been eagerly awaited since the fixtures were published almost a year ago and remarkably the last time the Netherlands were in Belfast for an A international was 42 years ago on 12 October 1977 when superstars George Best and Johan Cruyff were in opposition. The Netherlands won on that occasion with a Willy van der Kuijlen goal and qualified for the finals in Argentina, where they lost to the hosts in the final. This will be our eighth meeting in total dating back to 1962. The Netherlands arrive in Belfast sitting in first place in the group with two games to play. Northern Ireland are in third place, three points behind. It is a big game for both countries and the managers will relish the opportunity of leading their respective teams towards the EURO finals next June. For Michael O’Neill the past 10 days have moved at an incredible pace and we congratulate him on his appointment as manager at EFL Championship club Stoke City. Our best wishes go with Michael in his new role.

Depending on automatic qualification, the play-offs and the draw for them, it is possible that tonight’s game will be our last home match until the UEFA Nations League games commence next September. Michael’s eight-year tenure guiding the fortunes of Northern Ireland football has given everyone involved, officials and supporters alike, great pride in the achievements of the team. It is a great opportunity tonight for us all to show our appreciation of his outstanding contribution to the Irish Football Association and sport generally in Northern Ireland. We have another sell-out competitive match and there has been huge demand for tickets over the last two campaigns. It is again pleasing to record the association’s thanks to the Northern Ireland supporters who turn out in such great numbers both home and away and give outstanding encouragement and support to the team. I look forward to more of the same tonight. Christmas Day is just over five weeks away and, on the occasion of our last home international of 2019, I take this opportunity on behalf of all at the Irish Football Association to wish everyone in the Northern Ireland football family every blessing for a happy and peaceful Christmas period. I hope everyone enjoys another exciting game of football tonight. Safe home. David J Martin President Irish Football Association




A lot has happened since Josh Magennis popped in that header in Rotterdam with 15 minutes to go…

Football can be a cruel game and there is little doubt that what occurred in additional time against the Dutch was not deserved. Our performance merited a better outcome but we have always said that the width of a post or the bounce of the ball can have a devastating effect on the outcome of a football match. I was hugely proud of the endeavour and application up to the point when fatigue set in. Good teams can hurt you in the latter stages of a match as we have discovered in this campaign against both the Germans and Dutch. That disappointment in Rotterdam was followed by perhaps the best 45 minutes of football we have played in my time as Northern Ireland manager as we destroyed the Czechs in Prague, with the goal machine that is Paddy McNair helping himself to two goals. I was very pleased with the team’s performance, not only in the first half when we played so well but also in the second half as we withheld Czech pressure to run out 3-2 winners. This performance certainly augurs well for the future. The next four days will, however, give us the opportunity to rectify the defeats to Germany and Netherlands and while we know we are up against it we are certainly not overawed. I am confident that once again we will give a good account of ourselves and the results will therefore be in the hands of fate. Of course since we last played my own circumstances have changed. I have been extremely proud and privileged both to play for and to manage my national team and no matter where I go, or no matter what I do, I will always have a

place in my heart for Northern Ireland and you, the fans, who have been so kind and supportive of me personally and professionally. To be able to give something back to the fans and the country in the form of Euro qualification in 2016 gave me immense pride and pleasure, just as repeating the feat for 2020 is my focus now. Sometimes opportunities come your way that cannot be ignored and the chance to go to a club of the standing of Stoke City could not be overlooked. However, as you know you have not seen the back of me yet and I am delighted that Stoke and the IFA have given me the opportunity to be able to fulfil these final two qualification games and any subsequent play-off matches. No doubt like you I have been trying to get to the bottom of the play-off maze and even with the use of slide rules and calculators I remain unsure of who we might end up playing or where. That will become clear over the next two matches. It has been more than 40 years since the Dutch have played in Belfast, and that was the wonderful ‘total football’ team of Cruyff, Neeskens etc. Today’s Netherlands team are just as formidable and, as we all know, we will need to be on top form for the whole game to get a result. I know we have unfinished business and that the boys are fully focused on achieving this. And with your support I am convinced we can do this. Thank you again for all your support. Michael O’Neill Northern Ireland Manager



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Welcome to the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park this evening for our last home match in the regular qualifying campaign for UEFA EURO 2020.

Our opponents tonight are the Netherlands and it is sure to be a special evening for a number of reasons. First, we remember that we were so close to taking at least a point from the match in Rotterdam last month, only conceding the goals which lost the game in added time. Second, it is our last home match of 2019. And, third, it may well be Michael’s last time on the touchline in Belfast, depending on the results of both tonight’s match and our game in Frankfurt on Tuesday. While the whole GAWA family will be disappointed to lose Michael to Stoke City after eight years as our senior men’s team manager, we are also happy that he will continue to manage our team until either we qualify for UEFA EURO 2020 or are knocked out of the qualifying tournament. Depending on the results of our next two matches, we may have play-off games coming up in March 2020. The play-off draw is on Friday 22 November at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, so by this time next week we will have the full picture. One page in one matchday programme is not nearly enough to pay tribute to the change Michael has brought about in football in Northern Ireland, and the achievements of our team, over the last eight years. Just think about our last three qualifying campaigns. Qualifying as group winners, finishing only second to Germany, and now fighting to the last minute in a very tough group indicates just how far we have come and how our expectations have been raised during this period.

In addition to this Michael’s influence has also been brought to bear on many other aspects of football in Northern Ireland over the past couple of years in his additional role as Chief Football Officer. For the avoidance of doubt, picking the right person to be Michael’s successor is a huge priority for myself and members of the Association Board over the coming period. Unusually within football we do have the luxury of being able to take our time given the arrangements we have made with Michael and Stoke City. I’m not sharing any state secrets when I say that we will be wanting someone to build on the strong foundations Michael has created during his time here, rather than someone who thinks a blank sheet would be appropriate. And while we thank Michael tonight, and wish him good luck with Stoke City, we should not forget that there is an important game to be played and won tonight. I had not read Michael’s programme notes before writing this welcome, however I strongly suspect he may major on that point, too. So let us raise the roof in Belfast as always tonight. For Michael. For the team. And for the road to UEFA EURO 2020.

Patrick Nelson Chief Executive Irish Football Association



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UEFA EURO 2020 QUALIFYING GROUP C 10.10.2019 Stadium Feijenoord, Rotterdam

















2 Veltman 5 Aké 6 van de Beek 11 Promes 12 van Aanholt 13 Vermeer 14 de Vrij 16 Strootman 15 de Roon 21 de Jong 7 Bergwijn 8 Wijnaldum 9 Babel 10 Depay Substitutes TEAMS 1 Cillessen 22 Dumfries 3 de Ligt 4 van Dijk 17 Blind

1 Peacock-Farrell 3 Smith 20 Cathcart 5 J Evans 11 Ferguson 13 C Evans 14 Dallas 17 McNair 8 Davis 6 Saville 10 Lafferty


2 McLaughlin 4 Flanagan 7 McGinn 9 Boyce 12 McGovern 15 Thompson 16 Kennedy 18 Whyte 19 Donnelly 21 Magennis

18 Berghuis 19 de Jong 20 Malen 23 Bizot

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Words Mark McIntosh The Sun


Michael Smith insists Northern Ireland’s stars are determined to give Michael O’Neill the Windsor Park send-off he deserves.

“Obviously we know how difficult both games are going to be but everyone is excited by the challenge. “At the start of this campaign we wanted to keep the possibility of qualifying for the Euros automatically alive going into the last game and that’s still a possibility.” He realises to do that Northern Ireland will have to get a big result against the Netherlands, however he insists that is something the players believe they are capable of doing. He pointed out: “I think everyone could see from our performance in Rotterdam that we are capable of competing with the best teams and hopefully with the WIndsor Park crowd behind us we can do something special.

Tonight’s Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands could be his final home game in charge after he accepted the Stoke City job last week. O’Neill has an agreement in place with the Championship club and the Irish FA to see out the campaign with the team - be it the final two Group C games or further - and with a sold-out National Football Stadium backing them to the hilt anything is possible. Last month’s defeat in Rotterdam was a sucker punch but Hearts defender Smith believes their hopes of qualifying are still alive and kicking. “We’re all really looking forward to these two games and hopefully ending the group off on a real high,” said Smith.


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“The atmosphere at the Germany game really helped us. We fed off that and if we’d taken our chances in the first half when we were on top it could have been a very different outcome. “We also showed against the Dutch that we were capable of hurting them in certain areas but the late goals were a real blow.” He is adamant the away result against Ronald Koeman’s charges is out of the system. “The most important thing now is to focus solely on this game and try to get the result everyone wants,” he said. “Any side coming to Windsor Park should know exactly what they are going to be up against. “Every international game is different but we believe we can put it to the bigger nations and it’s something we plan to do in these final two games, and in any potential play-off. “The fans will be right up for it and it would be brilliant to give Michael the send-off he deserves if this turns out to be his final game in charge at Windsor Park.” Smith is one of a number of Northern Ireland players who believe their careers have been enhanced by O’Neill. It promises to be an emotional night at Windsor and the ex-Ballymena United man insists the players are delighted to see the manager get the credit he deserves after eight unforgettable years at the helm. He added: “Michael has been brilliant for my career, and I’m sure all the lads will say the same. He’s given me my big chance in international football and I’ll always be grateful. “But it’s not just about when we met up; he’s always speaking to players to see how they are and he’s a great man manager for everyone. “Obviously we are disappointed that his time with Northern Ireland is coming to an end but, given the job he has done, it’s no surprise whatsoever that clubs have come looking for him. It’s a great opportunity for him and we all wish him well.” He said what the outgoing boss has done with Northern Ireland will live long in the memories of the players and fans alike. “Qualifying for a major tournament was something not many people thought was possible but he gave everyone the belief it could happen and the lads were brilliant in France. “We then got so close to qualifying for the World Cup and making it to the Euros next summer remains the objective now.” Smith has suffered a couple of niggling injuries at Hearts this season and it’s been a difficult time at club level. “Personally the season has gone fine for me at Hearts but obviously the manager (Craig Levein) was sacked,” he said. “I feel like I am playing well but when things are tough at club level coming away to meet up with the Northern Ireland squad is always a good distraction. “It gives you something else to focus on and there’s a really special spirit within the squad.”


Position Right Back Date Of Birth 04.09.1988 Place Of Birth Ballyclare


Height 180cm Weight 71kg



CLUBS Ballyclare Comrades Ballymena United Bristol Rovers 101 Peterborough United 120 Heart of Midlothian 68



Debut 28.03.16 v Slovenia (H) Won 1-0

Caps 7 Goals 0

Northern Ireland U23



Words Marshall Gillespie

When Shayne Lavery came on as a substitute against Germany back in September he became the 72nd Linfield player to win a senior international cap for Ireland/Northern Ireland since 1882. In total Linfield players have made 350 appearances and scored 38 goals for the national team. The last international goal scored by a Blues player was from Peter Thompson in a 4-1 friendly win over Georgia at Windsor Park in March 2008.

Tonight will be our eighth full international meeting with the Netherlands and only our third ever encounter with the Dutch in Belfast. Northern Ireland’s only victory over the Oranje to date came in one of those contests at Windsor Park when goals from Johnny Crossan and Terry Neill gave us a 2-1 win in a World Cup qualifier on St Patrick’s Day 1965. Northern Ireland’s full record against this evening’s opponents is: P W D L F A 7 1 2 4 5 17

Steven Davis has played more games in the European Championship (both in qualifying and Finals matches) than any other Northern Ireland player. If, as expected, he turns out tonight against the Netherlands it will be his 40th appearance in the competition. The top four players with the most appearances in the European Championship to date are: Steve Davis 39

Not surprisingly Steven Davis has won more full international caps during Michael O’Neill’s reign as manager than any other player. Sixty-four of Davis’s 115 caps to date have been won since O’Neill officially took over the job in February 2012. Players with most appearances under Michael O’Neill are: Steven Davis 64 Jonny Evans 55 Ollie Norwood 52 Kyle Lafferty 45 Josh Magennis 45 Gareth McAuley 45

Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Kyle Lafferty

35 33 31

Northern Ireland have scored a total of 130 goals in their 120 games in the European Championship (including the games at EURO 2016). Seventy-five of those goals have come at Windsor Park, 47 away from Belfast, while eight have been scored at neutral venues. David Healy is, of course, our all-time top goalscorer in the competition with 13 in 29 games, while current Sarpsborg striker Kyle Lafferty lies in second spot with 10 goals in 31 outings.


The first Northern Ireland player ever to be sent off in a full international was Manchester United’s Jimmy Nicholson, who was red- carded after 70 minutes of a World Cup qualifying victory over Greece at Windsor Park on 17 October 1961. The last player to receive his marching orders was Chris Baird who picked up two yellow cards in quick succession in the European Championship qualifying draw with Hungary in Belfast on 7 September 2015.

Seven is the magic number forJosh Magennis. His goal in Rotterdam last month was his seventh in a green shirt and also the seventh time he has scored in the second half in a full international. All of his seven goals have been in competitive games and all have been assisted by different players (Ollie Norwood, Conor Washington, Steven Davis, Gareth McAuley, Paddy McNair, Jordan Jones and Stuart Dallas)!

When Leeds United midfielder Alfie McCalmont was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute of the international friendly with Luxembourg back in September he became the first player born in the 2000s to win a senior cap. Two minutes from the end of that game at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park 18-year-old Manchester United midfielder Ethan Galbraith became the second when he also came on as a substitute to make his full international debut.

Exactly 36 years ago today Northern Ireland undoubtedly recorded one of their greatest ever qualifying results away from home when they defeated Germany 1-0 in Hamburg thanks to a second half goal from 18-year-old Norman Whiteside. The full list of Northern Ireland’s results for 16 November are: 1938 v England (a) (BIC) lost 7-0 1949 v England (a) (WCQ) lost 9-2 1966 v Scotland (a) (ECQ) lost 2-1 1977 v Belgium (h) (FR) won 3-0 1983 v Germany (a) (ECQ) won 1-0 1994 v ROI (h) (ECQ) lost 4-0

The goalkeeper who holds the record for going the longest without conceding a goal in a full international is, of course, Pat Jennings who went a record 633 minutes without his goal being breached. The run started against England on 27 February 1985 and ended against Denmark on 26 March 1986. The closest any other goalkeeper has ever come to emulating that feat is current squad member Michael McGovern who kept his goal intact for 607 minutes between 11 October 2016 and 5 October 2017.




Andy Greeves looks back on the careers of four Northern Ireland international strikers who plied their trade in the Netherlands’ top football league, the Eredivisie, during their playing days.

In the late 1950s the Express newspaper described Londonderry-born striker Johnny Crossan as “the 19-year-old wonder boy of Irish soccer… Ireland’s Jimmy Greaves”. Many of England’s leading clubs of the time, including Arsenal, Sheffield United and Sunderland, made attempts to sign the inside forward, who eventually moved from Coleraine to Bristol City in October 1958. Alas a dispute between Crossan and his former club Derry City saw then Football League secretary Alan Hardaker deny his registration to play. The conflict saw the player banned from playing all forms of football in January 1959 prior to a partial lifting of that ban some five months later enabling him to sign for Dutch champions Sparta Rotterdam. Crossan scored five goals in 20 league appearances for Sparta and featured for them in the European Cup prior to a transfer to Belgian side Standard Liege in 1961. The striker netted six times in 33 league matches for Liege during the 1961-62 campaign and lined up against Real Madrid in a European Cup semi-final. Crossan’s ‘lifetime’ ban was fully lifted in 1962 when he moved to Sunderland, while he also played for Manchester City, Middlesbrough and KSK Tongeren during a career in which he netted 10 times in 24 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1959 and 1967. Sammy Morgan followed in Crossan’s footsteps in 1978 when he too signed for Sparta Rotterdam. The Belfast-born forward scored five goals in 23 Eredivisie appearances for De Kasteelheren before joining FC Groningen a year later, helping them win the Eerste Divisie title in 1979-80 as he netted twice in 17 league appearances. The former Port Vale, Aston Villa, Brighton and Hove Albion and Cambridge United player won 18 caps for Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1978, scoring three times.

Striker James Quinn, who earned 50 caps for Northern Ireland, had a successful spell with Eredivisie side Willem II

Phil Gray spent a season of his well-travelled career with Eredivisie club Fortuna Sittard in 1996-97. Fortunezen finished 11th in the table that campaign, with Grey scoring once in 15 league appearances. The striker, who scored six goals in 26 matches for Northern Ireland between 1992 and 2001, turned out for 11 different professional clubs during his playing days, including Tottenham Hotspur, Sunderland and French side AS Nancy Lorraine. James Quinn - who featured in 50 senior Northern Ireland internationals and scored four times between 1996 and 2007– enjoyed a successful spell with Eredivisie side Willem II, whom he represented from 2002 to 2005. The Coventry-born frontman scored 15 goals in 62 Dutch league matches for the Tricolores following his release from West Bromwich Albion. He also turned out for the likes of Birmingham City, Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough United and Northampton Town during his career before retiring from playing in 2007.






SCOUTING REPORT Andy Greeves takes a closer look at Netherlands’ squad ahead of this evening’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier

during the game as the Oranje switched between 3-1-4-2, 3-4-2-1 and 3-4-1-2 set-ups. While the Netherlands adopted a rather compact structure for that match against Germany they played a more expansive game in their recent 2-1 win in Belarus. STRENGTHS Having scored 19 goals in six Group C fixtures to date, the Netherlands’ attacking threat is obvious. The Dutch frontline is fluid and it is common for their attacking players to switch positions during a game, making it difficult to mark them. With a host of defenders that are comfortable on the ball, the Dutch typically look to play out from the back. While the Netherlands are renowned for their patient, possession-based game, they are quick to exploit gaps in their opponent’s defence and also have a number of midfielders, such as Frenkie De Jong, who are keen to drive forward with the ball. The Dutch have many goal threats in their squad, including Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum, who netted twice in the recent win in Belarus. Memphis Depay is Group C’s top scorer with six strikes in five appearances, while he netted twice in six UEFA Nations League A appearances, making two assists in the process.

LOWDOWN By virtue of their performance in the UEFA Nations League the Netherlands are already guaranteed a place in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs. The Oranje would all but guarantee their place at the finals next summer with a victory this evening ahead of their final qualifying match at home to Estonia on Tuesday. Holland’s impressive Group C campaign to date, which has seen them win five and lose just one of their qualifying fixtures, included a 4-2 away victory over rivals Germany back in September. Germany only won 3-2 in the Netherlands earlier in the year, meaning the Dutch – who are tied with the Germans at the top of Group C on 15 points – have the advantage in terms of head-to-head goal difference, which could prove all-important with regards to automatic qualification if Northern Ireland win their next two matches by a particular goal margin. TACTICS The Netherlands typically line up in a 4-3-3 formation that can appear more like a 4-2-3-1 formation when they are out of possession. In their victory in Germany in September Koeman opted to select a back three, with varieties of the 3-5-2 system in evidence

POSSIBLE LINE-UP GK Jasper Cillessen RB Joël Veltman CB Virgil van Dijk CB Nathan Aké LB Daley Blind MF Frenkie de Jong MF Georginio WijnaldumMF Donny van de Beek FW Quincy Promes FWMemphis Depay FW Donyell Malen

Many thanks to journalist Fabian Zerche ( for his assistance in the writing of this article.

GREAT PLAYERS ARE GREAT PLAYERS I recently checked the records for the last match played between Northern Ireland and Netherlands and I was stunned to discover it was October 1977, some 42 years ago.

Football pitches are designed to have football played on them, and while styles have changed over the years the great players stride across whatever turf they are gracing. Both internationally and domestically football fans in Northern Ireland have had the opportunity to see many of the best. The aforementioned Best and Cruyff, more recent superstar Ronaldo scored a hat-trick in 2013, Tommy Dickson couldn’t stop scoring for the Blues. There was also the prolific Jackie Milburn and the England World Cup winners. Wilbur Cush, reckoned to be one of the best at what he did by his peers, provided the backbone for the 1958 team and blended perfectly with the mastery of Danny Blanchflower and the wizardry of Jimmy McIlroy. Steven Davis would have been a great player in any age. We have hosted many of the top British and European sides over the years, and while the methods and style of the game have changed the principles stay the same. Players are players, great players are great players. Players can have great matches and poor matches, but for those of us who love the game we should celebrate them all. When we watch tonight’s match I wonder if you, like me, will think wistfully back 42 years to the grace and skills of two of the best ever. Their ghosts will forever bestride the turf no matter who is playing. It is their gift to us, their legacy to the stadium and one we should never forget. Perhaps tonight we will witness one of the greatest (Van Dijk perhaps?) or maybe not, but regardless let’s enjoy the present, the living and the ghosts. But those of us who can should not forget the past because it has forged us into what we are today. Words William Campbell

I had a lot more hair (and I mean a lot) back then, a lot less inches around the waist and the sparkling eyed optimism of a 19-year-old student. This was before Margaret Thatcher (the PM was James Callaghan), Jimmy Carter was President of USA, it was the days of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall, petrol was sold in gallons and the UK was a member of the Common Market. There was no internet, no social media, no mention of Brexit! Flares were in, hair was large, collars were larger. This was an alien time. A time almost before civilisation as we know it. I remember standing on the terraces where the North Stand is today to watch the Dutch, 1974 World Cup finalists, defeat us 1-0. My memory tells me it was an early kick-off in daylight, probably a combination of poor floodlights and the ‘Troubles’, for after all we had only returned to playing matches in Belfast in April ’75. The match had been awaited with much anticipation. The Dutch had a fearsome reputation. This was the era of Total Football, after all. Little did we know then that we were watching the 1978 World Cup finalists in action. Neither would we have realised that it would be the last appearance in a green shirt for George Best, nor that we should be savouring the opportunity to see both Best and Cruyff on the same pitch. Of course, not knowing what happens next is one of the problems and yet also a blessing. Can you imagine how dull life would be if we knew the outcomes we would be facing, if we knew the results before the games are played (maybe not the lottery results though!)? Best and Cruyff on the same pitch is the 1970s equivalent of Messi and Ronaldo. And it got me thinking about how many other superstars have appeared on the hallowed turf of Windsor Park, and yes I do know that the pitch has been relaid on many occasions, but this is metaphorical.


Our superstar, George Best, and Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff faced each other at Windsor Park back in 1977


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Words Liam Blackburn

NETHERLANDS THE COACH Netherlands appointed one of their all- time greatest players as manager when handing the reins to Ronald Koeman in February 2018.

following their failure to reach the 2018 World Cup under Dick Advocaat. Home wins over reigning World Cup champions France and Germany early in Koeman's reign meant Netherlands finished top of their group in the UEFA Nations League. At the Nations League Finals back in June Koeman's side beat England in the last four after extra time but were defeated in the final by Portugal. Since then Koeman's side have won all four of their matches, including an impressive 4-2 victory in Germany in September. » » Though he was often deployed as a defender at Barcelona, Koeman was joint top scorer in the 1993-94 Champions League with eight goals. » » He played for the 'big three' of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord in his homeland - one of only two men to have done so - before managing each of the trio, too. » » Koeman is one of three men to have won the Eredivisie with PSV as both a player and a manager. The other two are Eric Gerets and current Derby County boss Phillip Cocu. » » The 56-year-old has taken charge of 18 matches for Netherlands so far and the Oranje have conceded the first goal in 12 of those contests, including against Northern Ireland last month.

Koeman was capped 78 times by his country between 1982 and 1994, scored 14 international goals and was part of the side that won UEFA Euro 1988, playing alongside his brother, Erwin, and greats such as Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit. In a decorated playing career Koeman won the European Cup with PSV and league titles with both the Eindhoven-based club and Ajax. Koeman, who also won four successive top flight titles in Spain, scored a free-kick in extra time at Wembley in 1992 to earn Barcelona their first European Cup triumph courtesy of a 1-0 success over Sampdoria. Upon retiring in 1997, he had coaching roles with Netherlands and Barcelona before branching out into management with Vitesse and then Ajax, whom he led to two Eredivisie titles. He won another domestic championship with PSV either side of spells at Benfica and Valencia. He returned to his native country to take charge of AZ Alkmaar and then Feyenoord, the club where he ended his playing career, before moving to England and replacing Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton in 2014. In his second campaign at the helm he led Southampton to their highest ever Premier League finish of sixth, which helped land him the job at Everton. The Toffees finished seventh and qualified for the Europa League in Koeman's first season, although he departed in October of the next campaign with the club in the relegation zone. Koeman's next job saw him move into international management as he was given the Netherlands job



Words Liam Blackburn





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Won his first cap under Louis van Gaal in 2013 and was a regular at the following year's World Cup, although he was famously substituted for Tim Krul ahead of a penalty shootout against Costa Rica. Ex- Ajax stopper Cillessen spent three years as Barcelona's back-up before joining Valencia in the summer.

The uncapped Bizot was not part of Ronald Koeman's initial squad but was called up following an injury to Feyenoord stopper Kenneth Vermeer. Bizot, who has previously represented Netherlands Under- 21s and Under-19s, is in his third season with AZ after a spell in Belgium with Genk.

One-club man who is playing his seventh season as PSV's undisputed number one. Zoet, who is a three-time Eredivisie winner, is friends with darts world champion Michael van Gerwen. It has been over a year since Zoet last made an international appearance.





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Blind's dad, Danny, played for and managed his country, with his son also beginning his club career in Amsterdam with Ajax. The most experienced player in this Netherlands squad, Blind, who spent four years at Manchester United, made his senior international bow in 2013 having represented his country at various youth levels.

De Vrij made his Eredivisie debut as a 17-year-old for Feyenoord, a club he later captained before moving to Lazio in 2014. De Vrij, now with Inter, was a regular when Netherlands reached the semi-finals at the World Cup in 2014 and he scored his first international goal in the 5-1 victory over Spain.

The current UEFA Men's Player of the Year played with Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis at Southampton before making a big money move to Liverpool in 2018. Van Dijk, who only made his international debut in 2015, was named the Oranje's captain in 2018 by his old Saints boss Koeman.




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Juventus won the race for the coveted signature of De Ligt this summer after the centre back captained Ajax to a domestic double and led them to the Champions League semi-finals. He made his Netherlands debut at 17, having played just twice for Ajax at the time, becoming the nation's youngest player since 1931.

Veltman, who missed most of last season having torn his ACL, has spent his entire career with Ajax, winning four league titles with them so far. Van Gaal handed him his first Netherlands cap in 2013 and he was part of the squad at the World Cup in 2014.

Moved from Feyenoord's youth system to Chelsea's academy and made his Premier League debut as a 17-year-old. Loan spells with Reading, Watford and Bournemouth followed before he became the Cherries' record signing in 2017. Ake, a regular at Netherlands youth levels, has only played nine minutes in this qualification campaign to date.





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Another player who started his senior career at Chelsea, Van Aanholt is now with Crystal Palace and scored a last-gasp winner at Old Trafford earlier this season. The full-back has spent the majority of his career in England having also played for Coventry City, Newcastle United, Leicester City, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland.

Earned his first international call-up in 2018 and was handed his debut 13 months ago against Belgium. He started each of Netherlands' games in the Nations League Finals and started the crucial qualifiers with Germany and Northern Ireland in September and October.






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Wijnaldum is now a crucial part of Premier League leaders Liverpool's midfield after previous stints with Feyenoord, PSV and Newcastle United. Made his international bow in September 2011, coming on and scoring the final goal in an 11-0 mauling of San Marino. Has scored five times in these qualifiers.

Another player based in England, Propper joined Brighton for a club record fee for their first season in the Premier League. At that point the midfielder had five caps for Netherlands. All three of his international goals came in 2017 and he has only made one start in this qualification campaign.

Strootman has been a full international since 2011 and was a regular in the qualifiers for World Cup 2014 but missed the tournament through injury. Strootman only played 11 league games in two seasons and though his injury problems now appear to be behind him he has only played 12 minutes for his country in 2019.




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Like De Ligt and De Jong, Van de Beek was a key part of Ajax's campaign last season and he scored Champions League goals against Juventus and Tottenham. Remained at Ajax this summer despite links with Real Madrid and he was on target against Chelsea in the 4-4 draw earlier this month.

De Roon returned to current club Atalanta in 2017 after a season with Middlesbrough, for whom he scored four times in the Premier League, including a last-minute equaliser against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. The majority of his 15 Netherlands caps have been won under Koeman.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said De Jong "will become the best midfielder in the world" after the game in Rotterdam last month. De Jong became the latest Dutch star to join Barcelona in the summer after impressing during Ajax's 2018-19 campaign. Scored his first international goal earlier this year.






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Babel spent three and a half seasons with Liverpool earlier in his career, scoring 12 times in the Premier League. He returned to the English top flight with Fulham in January, netting five goals in 16 appearances, but left following their relegation. Two of his 10 international goals have come during this qualification campaign.

Depay was the Eredivisie's top scorer in the 2014-15 season and joined Manchester United later that summer, reuniting with Van Gaal. He scored twice against Northern Ireland and began this international break as Group C's top scorer. In his past five games for club and country Depay has scored seven goals.

Began his career at Twente before joining Spartak Moscow, where he was named Russia's Player of the Year in 2017. Promes moved to Sevilla but spent just a season in Spain before joining Ajax this summer. Comes into this international break having scored three times in his last three club appearances.

Came off the bench in Rotterdam to put Netherlands ahead late on against Northern Ireland last month. De Jong, once of Newcastle United, was joint top scorer in the Eredivisie last year having scored 28 times in 34 games for PSV. Those figures earned him a move to Spanish top flight club Sevilla.





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Only four players have scored more Eredivisie goals so far this season than Berghuis, who also netted 30 times across the previous two seasons for Feyenoord. Berghuis, who made nine Premier League appearances for Watford earlier in his career, has only featured for 27 minutes in this qualification campaign.

Weghorst scored 17 Bundesliga goals for Wolfsburg last season, a tally that was only bettered by Borussia Dortmund's Paco Alcacer and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. All three of his international appearances so far have come as a substitute, in friendlies against England, Slovakia and Italy last year.

The youngest member of the Oranje's squad received his maiden call-up after a sensational start to the season. Boadu only won his first Netherlands Under-21 cap in October, scoring twice on his debut against Portugal, and he has already managed 14 goals and five assists in all competitions for AZ.

Like club team-mate Boadu, Stengs is part of Koeman's senior squad for the first time. Stengs has scored nine times and provided eight assists in 23 games for AZ this term. He also scored twice for Netherlands Under-21s during the previous international break, finding the net in a 4-2 win over Portugal and a 4-0 thrashing of Norway.


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