The incredible untold story of Northern Irelandʼs greatest team

The Northern Ireland team line up before their 1958 qualifier against Italy at Windsor Park, which they won 2-1. PIC: Pacemaker
The Northern Ireland team line up before their 1958 qualifier against Italy at Windsor Park, which they won 2-1. PIC: Pacemaker

In the summer of 1958 tiny Northern Ireland stood just one game away from a semi-final appearance in the World Cup against mighty Brazil.

Led by their brilliant manager, Peter Doherty, and captained by the inspirational Danny Blanchflower, the team had triumphed against all the odds, blazing a trail through the qualifying rounds and battling through their opening matches to claim their place on the world stage.

PACEMAKER BELFAST. Off on the great adventure-Northern Ireland's squad leave for the 1958 World Cup. From top: Derek Dougan, Billy Bingham, the late Gerry Morgan, Norman Uprichard, Willie Cunningham, Peter McParland, Fay Coyle, Sammy McCrory, Jimmy McIlroy, Wilbur Cush, Jackie Scott, Danny Blanchflower, Tommy Casey, Billy Simpson, Bertie Peacock, and Peter Doherty (Manager). The Newcastle United full-backs, Alfie McMichael and the late Dick Keith joined the party in Sweden after a club tour.

PACEMAKER BELFAST. Off on the great adventure-Northern Ireland's squad leave for the 1958 World Cup. From top: Derek Dougan, Billy Bingham, the late Gerry Morgan, Norman Uprichard, Willie Cunningham, Peter McParland, Fay Coyle, Sammy McCrory, Jimmy McIlroy, Wilbur Cush, Jackie Scott, Danny Blanchflower, Tommy Casey, Billy Simpson, Bertie Peacock, and Peter Doherty (Manager). The Newcastle United full-backs, Alfie McMichael and the late Dick Keith joined the party in Sweden after a club tour.

Spirit of ʼ58 tells the thrilling story of that incredible World Cup campaign and of the remarkable transformation of the Northern Ireland team during the 1950s. Drawing on newspaper coverage and a whole range of sources from the time, as well as interviews with the players, Evan Marshallʼs book takes you back to an era when there were no substitutions; when training with a football was frowned upon; and when a goalkeeper with a broken hand was still allowed to continue playing.

Taking in the Munich Air Disaster, a fight against Sabbath observers within the Irish Football Association, and a violent win-or-bust struggle against Italy to qualify, this is the ultimate underdog story, celebrating the glory days of Northern Irish football.

With a foreword by Michael OʼNeill, Northern Ireland team manager, this is a gripping rollercoaster of a story that will thrill football and sports fans everywhere.

EVAN MARSHALL is from Northern Ireland and has worked in television there for the past twelve years, much of that time with DoubleBand Films in Belfast where he worked on Super 8 Stories and Those Were the Days.

He worked extensively on Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive, and it was here that he first saw a Pathé news report on the 1958 Northern Ireland team.