Jimmy McIlroy: Former Burnley & Northern Ireland forward dies

Jimmy McIlroy
Jimmy McIlroy scored 10 goals in 55 caps for Northern Ireland

Former Burnley and Northern Ireland forward Jimmy McIlroy has died at the age of 86.

McIlroy played 497 games for the Clarets between 1950 and 1962, winning the old First Division title in 1960.

He made 55 appearances for his country, scoring 10 goals. between 1951 and 1965, and helped them reach the World Cup quarter-finals in 1958.

Burnley said they were "deeply saddened to learn of the death of our greatest ever player".

A club statement described McIlroy as a "giant of a man" and added: "The thoughts of everyone connected with the club are with his family and friends at this sad time."

McIlroy started his career at Northern Irish club Glentoran in 1949 before moving to England with Burnley one year later. He went on to score 131 goals during a time the club describe as their "golden age".

Having won the league the year before, the Clarets reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup in 1961, losing 5-4 on aggregate to Hamburg, and in the following season they finished as league and FA Cup runners-up.

After leaving Burnley in 1962, McIlroy made 116 league appearances for Stoke before moving to Oldham and retiring from playing in 1967.

He was appointed Oldham manager in 1965 but left in 1968, and also took charge of Bolton for a brief period in 1970.

At the World Cup in 1958, McIlroy and his Northern Ireland team-mates, captained by Tottenham great Danny Blanchflower, were beaten 4-0 by France in the last eight.

Burnley's Turf Moor stadium has a stand named after McIlroy, who was given a testimonial by the club in 2009.

In 2011, he was made an MBE for services to football and to charity, deciding to receive the honour at Turf Moor instead of travelling to Buckingham Palace.

In the years following his retirement from football, he worked as a writer for local newspaper the Burnley Express.

'Warmth, humility, passion, a real gentleman'

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill described McIlroy as "a hugely talented footballer" and "a fantastic person".

"Anyone who ever met him was struck by his warmth, his humility and his passion for football," he added. "Jimmy will be sadly missed, but what he achieved on the pitch for Northern Ireland will always be remembered."

Irish Football Association president David Martin said: "Everyone at the association and in the Northern Ireland football family is saddened to hear of the death of Jimmy McIlroy.

"He was one of the greatest ever players to come from our country and, of course, he was one of the heroes of Northern Ireland's famous 1958 World Cup squad. Jimmy was also a real gentleman and he will be sadly missed."

A Stoke City statement read: "We are saddened to learn of the death of Jimmy McIlroy at the age of 86. Jimmy was a key member of our 1962-63 Second Division title-winning side and the thoughts of all at the Bet365 Stadium are with his family and friends at this sad time."

An Oldham statement read: "Oldham Athletic are saddened to learn of the passing of former player and manager Jimmy McIlroy. The club would like to send their condolences to the friends and family of Jimmy at this very sad time."

'An Italian villa? I'd rather stay in Burnley'

Jimmy McIlroy pictured at home in Burnley in 1963
McIlroy, pictured here at home in Burnley in 1963, said he "even had a chance to go to South America"

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in 2008, McIlroy revealed he turned down lucrative offers to leave Burnley, including one from Sampdoria.

He said the Italian club's manager met him on the morning of the 1962 FA Cup final, which the Clarets lost 3-1 to Tottenham, and "promised me all sorts; a villa overlooking the Mediterranean, an international school for my children, wages way beyond what I was getting in England".

McIlroy added: "But when I went back to the hotel and told my wife she said to me: 'What would we want to leave Burnley for?'

"I even had a chance to go to South America, River Plate in Argentina, at the age of 31 when I went on tour with Stoke there.

"Again I rang my wife and said there's good money here etc and she just said: 'Sure, but what would we want to leave Burnley for?'

"I've never regretted it. From the moment I arrived it felt like home and it has been home."

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