SUPERCUPNI: A homecoming for World Cup legend Gerry Armstrong
Northern Ireland World Cup legend Gerry Armstrong hopes the next generation of talent can catch the eye at this year's SuperCup NI.
Armstrong, who netted the famous winner against hosts Spain at the 1982 World Cup finals, will officially open the prestigious international youth tournament this year.
It’s a homecoming for the Sky TV football co-commentator who has been a major supporter of the event for some considerable time.
Armstrong, who made 63 Northern Ireland appearances, said: "I've been privileged to attend the event for many years and witness its development into a world class tournament.
“It is a wonderful celebration of youth football and deserving of all our support.
"I believe that because of the longevity of the competition it is sometimes taken for granted in some quarters but we should never become complacent about it because it continues to be a jewel in the crown so far as attracting visitors to the country.
"It does this by offering us top class football by attracting a truly international line-up of talent. It takes so much hard work and dedication to maintain the highest of standards and I salute the tireless volunteers."
Down the years Gerry was a summariser on UTV’s finals night coverage and made the draw for the 2011 tournament.
Armstrong, who has worked on Sky Sports’ coverage of La Liga for more than 20 years and served as Northern Ireland’s assistant manager on two occasions, knows at first hand the quality and worldwide drawing power of the SuperCupNI.
He said: "No matter where I go in the world, so many people talk to me about the tournament. It is one of the massive success stories for Northern Ireland not only in terms of football but also tourism.
Gerry, who had spells with Bangor, Watford and Tottenham Hotspur, is remembered for his goal on June 25 at the Estadio Luis Casanova stadium in Valencia. The day Billy Bingham’s Northern Ireland team shocked the world, upsetting the host nation 1-0 to qualify for the World Cup knockout stages as group winners despite being down to 10 men.
It remains an iconic moment in football and the pinnacle of a golden age for Northern Ireland when Bingham’s side went to two World Cups in a row.
Armstrong’s run from deep inside his own half, Billy Hamilton’s cross from the right, keeper Luis Arconada’s fumble and Armstrong there to rifle the ball home.
“It’s the most memorable goal I ever scored, but the way people talk about it still surprises me,” said Gerry.
“Young fans in their teens and 20s talk about it as if they were there. I suppose it’s the power of social media and YouTube.”
Gerry earned a transfer to Spanish side Real Mallorca after those finals.
“I’m looking forward to the SuperCupNI,” he said. “I have so much respect for what the organisers have achieved and their wonderful army of volunteers.”