Peter McParland will forever be remembered as the man who catapulted Northern Ireland into the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
The Aston Villa forward spectacularly scored five goals in Northern Ireland’s opening four games to set up a last eight encounter with France, however, their opponents ran out comfortable 4-0 winners against a team which by then had been decimated by injuries.
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McParland, who was born in Newry, began his career across the border in the League of Ireland with Dundalk before being snapped up by Villa in 1952 for a fee in the region of £3,500.
Two years later, at 19, the outside-left made his full international debut for Peter Doherty’s side scoring both goals in a World Cup qualifying win over Wales in Wrexham.
In 1957 he scored both Villa’s goals in the 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Manchester United though that final is probably best remembered for his controversial shoulder charge on Ray Wood which left the United keeper with a broken cheekbone.
In 1960 his 22 league goals helped Villa to the Second Division title and the following year he also scored the extra-time winner which secured them a 3-2 aggregate success in the final over Rotherham United in what was the inaugural League Cup.
After 340 games and 120 goals for the Birmingham-based side he moved across the west Midlands to join Wolves in January 1962 for £35,000.
His time at Molineux was brief though and he played out the remainder of his career with Plymouth Argyle and non-league Worcester City as well as having successful stints in both Canada and America where he won the NPSL Championship with Atlanta Chiefs in 1967.
McParland returned to Northern Ireland to take over as player/manager at Glentoran and enjoyed League Championship success in 1970 in three seasons at the Oval.
He is now living in retirement in England aged 86.
Peter McParland Stat Pack
- McParland made his debut against Wales on 31 March 1954 at the Racecourse Ground Wrexham aged 19 years and 330 days. Also making their debuts that day were Harry Gregg, Jackie Blanchflower and Billy McAdams.
- He scored twice on his international debut, his first coming after 30 seconds which is believed to be the fastest ever goal scored by a Northern Ireland at senior level.
- After netting twice in his first international appearance McParland then went 14 matches and just over four years before chalking up another goal; versus Czechoslovakia in the 1958 World Cup finals.
- His 10 goals came against the following countries: Wales (4), Czechoslovakia (2), West Germany (2), Argentina (1) and Scotland (1).
- Only two of his 10 international goals were scored at Windsor Park both against Wales in a 4-1 victory on 22 April 1959. Three were scored away from home and five on neutral grounds (all in the World Cup in 1958).
- In total he played 3,060 minutes of football for Northern Ireland including every minute of his country’s games in the ‘58 World Cup.
- Thirty-three of his 34 caps came while he was an Aston Villa player. His final appearance in May 1962 against the Netherlands (aged just 28) was when he was with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
- He was the third joint-top goalscorer (alongside Brazil’s Vava) at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. In fact only two British players, Gary Lineker (10) and Harry Kane (6) have scored more goals in the finals of the competition.
- When he played for Atlanta Chiefs in America, McParland played 58 games for them scoring 15 goals as well as clocking up eight assists.
- His playing record in a green shirt was: won 7, drew 10 and lost 17.
Peter McParland is one of 10 Northern Ireland players featured in the Hall of Fame exhibit at the Education and Heritage Centre at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.