Northern Ireland 1-0 England: The night Windsor Park blew David Beckham away
In the aftermath maybe, just maybe, it was the England captain who summed it up best. As all of the other England players sat glum faced on their luxury coach in the Windsor car park and manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was grilled about his side’s shock defeat elsewhere in the stadium, David Beckham stopped for an interview with me to discuss what he had seen and heard in the 90 frenzied minutes of action that had gone before.
y then all the Northern Ireland heroes, loaded with a mixture of surprise, exhaustion and joy, had slowly made their way through the mixed zone, where journalists wait to speak to players, having being quizzed by all and sundry on the game of their lives .
When Becks emerged there were hardly any reporters left. He was the last one out from either side. Takes a while to get that hair just right!
It took him a lot less time to sum up his feelings about the Northern Ireland fans who had roared their team on to a famous 1-0 victory with David Healy (who else?) scoring the only goal in the World Cup qualifier.
Beckham, who like a few of his teenage Manchester United team-mates had been sprinkled with stardust here in 1991 when winning the Milk Cup, had made no secret of his fondness for Northern Ireland and its people after England had hammered our boys 4-0 at Old Trafford six months earlier.
Easy to say then. But after a humiliating loss?
Back in September 7, 2005, GoldenBalls showed he had a golden tongue as far as this was concerned.
He told me: “I was impressed by the Northern Ireland supporters at Old Trafford but they were even better on their home patch.
“We knew, just like the Northern Ireland players, that the fans would be up for the game but we didn’t realize how much. The passion they showed was incredible.
“I’m not just saying this but I’ve always loved the Northern Ireland people. The noise they created during and after the match was amazing. It was a tremendous show of support for the team. Tonight your country should be very proud of them and your team.”
Looking back on a decade, memories flood to mind of that awesome evening.
Like big bustling Northern Ireland forward James Quinn crashing into England full-back Ashley Cole after just seven seconds to set a tone that lasted for 90 minutes plus.
Like Wayne Rooney getting so frustrated he almost got himself sent off for elbowing Keith Gillespie.
Like Damien Johnson and Steven Davis winning the midfield battle against Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
And of course THE goal, THAT goal from Healy following a sublime pass from Davis.
The stage was set and as the curtain opened and the lights went up, King David was never going to fluff his lines in front of the Kop.
In Saturday’s Belfast Telegraph he revealed that he celebrated the win by going back to his hotel room on his own and eating a sandwich as he watched a re-run of the match on television.
The calm after the storm inside Windsor which blew England away with 14,000 Northern Ireland supporters sounding like 140,000. It was a glorious, unforgettable night.
And also one when the whole country came together.
Beating England tends to do that.
What happened next for the players
Maik Taylor: German-born goalkeeper who became a huge favorite with the Northern Ireland fans. Retired in 2013 and in the same year took over from Tommy Wright as the country’s goalkeeping coach. He still holds that position.
Chris Baird: One of three men who started against England still involved in the squad. A full-back in 2005, he is now an accomplished holding midfielder for his country. Signed for Championship side Derby County in the summer.
Tony Capaldi: Stood up well to some daunting one-on-one battles with Shaun Wright-Phillips and ultimately came out on top. Capped 22 times, Capaldi currently plays his football in the seventh-tier of English football with Rushall Olympic.
Aaron Hughes: Hoping to become Northern Ireland’s first outfield player to reach 100 caps, the Cookstown native is now playing his football with Melbourne City in Australia. Was calmness personified against England.
Stephen Craigan: Alongside Hughes at the back, the central defender excellent versus Rooney and Owen. Retired in 2012. Now a coach at youth levels for NI and old club Motherwell and a highly respected TV pundit on Scottish football.
Steven Davis: Provided the pass for David Healy’s goal and a decade on is still the creator supreme for Northern Ireland. Today he is the inspirational captain for his country and a key performer in midfield for his club, Southampton.
Keith Gillespie: Put himself about in defense and attack 10 years ago. Was elbowed by Wayne Rooney in the first half when the Englishman was lucky to stay on the pitch.
Damien Johnson: The Lisburn man, combining with Davis, won the midfield battle against Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Now a coach at Blackburn and the IFA.
David Healy: So often the hero for Northern Ireland throughout the years, the striker beat the offside trap before unleashing a wicked right-footed drive past Paul Robinson and into the far corner, securing a famous victory. Iconic sporting figure here and now a coach with the IFA.
James Quinn: The striker famously crunched into Ashley Cole after just seven seconds at Windsor, setting the tone for the home team in 2005. Went on to manage Central Jersey Spartans in the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.
Stuart Elliott: The former Glentoran winger put in a mighty shift in the win over England. A committed Christian, Elliott is now a minister.
subs; Ivan Sproule: Replaced Healy late on to wind down the clock. He is now back at Windsor Park playing for Linfield.
Warren Feeney: The man Sproule is playing under, came on and added some legs to the attack. Still very prominent in Northern Irish football as the manager of the Blues.
Michael Duff: Replaced Elliott in the 90th minute. The defender is still playing for Burnley.
Paul Robinson: Then England number one, Robinson was helpless for Healy’s goal. Robinson only left Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season.
Luke Young: Looked uncomfortable and struggled with Healy’s pace. Retired in 2014.
Rio Ferdinand: Played Healy onside for the goal. Ferdinand would enjoy great success with Manchester United and is now a pundit on BT Sport.
Jamie Carragher: Arguably England’s most assured defender. Retired from football in 2013 and is now one of the top expert analysts on Sky Sports.
Ashley Cole: Caught out of position for Healy’s goal. Recently released by Roma after a disappointing spell in Serie A.
Frank Lampard: Utterly anonymous. Lampard left Chelsea for New York City FC in July.
David Beckham: One of England’s more eye-catching attacking weapons, displaying his legendary array of passing. Last year invested $25m in an MLS team.
Steven Gerrard: Failed to combine effectively with Lampard in midfield. Playing in the MLS with LA Galaxy after ending his Liverpool career.
Shaun Wright-Phillips: Pace and trickery caused problems before being taken off. Wright-Phillips is now playing for New York Red Bulls.
Michael Owen: The striker found himself marked tightly and was starved of service. Retired in 2013. He is now a commentator for BT Sport.
Wayne Rooney: Failed to make an impression. Needs only one goal to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton as England’s top goalscorer.
subs; Owen Hargreaves: Ravaged by injury, he retired in 2012 and is now a pundit on BT Sport.
Jermain Defoe: Unable to show his eye for goal in a 15-minute cameo. Still playing with Sunderland.
Joe Cole: Injected some much needed pace, but end product let him down. Currently at Aston Villa.