Let begin by saying happy 58th birthday Sammy McIlroy – those long locks and perfected mustache are surely missed. The Northern Irishman played for Manchester United from 1971-1982, while also making pit stops to Stoke City and Manchester City: And yes, we’ll let playing for City slide for today only, as birthday’s are always an upbeat occasion.
McIlroy, or Super Sam as many referred to him as, was Matt Busby’s final signing. Nevertheless, McIlroy had a knack for being in the right place at the right time during his time as a red. Take into consideration scoring a goal in the 1971 Manchester derby in the 3-3 draw, and his regularity in United’s squad, the icon made his mark. The 17-year-old boy wonder made an immediate impact in the ranks at Old Trafford.
Even though the bullish Stoke City stole him away from us for 350,000 pounds in 1982, United were graced with plenty of effortful years out of the Irishman. For instance, Super Sam appeared in every Manchester United fixture in the 1974/75 season as the reds made their return to the Premier League. And despite being seriously injured in a car accident in 1973 which put his professional career on hold, his resiliency to return to football was astonishing. His work rate in recovery, made him an even better footballer upon returning to United’s first team.
Constantly finding the openings in opponents penalty areas, he found the net even though those long, curly locks seemed to get in his face. How often was it that we heard “Best to McIlroy” during their careers? Often, but their partnership was taken to an entire new level.
The understanding between Best and McIlroy was that of simple understandings between one another coupled with the fact that both knew how to find the onion-bag. Although McIlroy’s goals were not always the most superb of finishes, he made his chances count and the goals he tabulated throughout his career with United are a testament to the immense work he put in. During his time, McIlroy was one of the best at punishing defenders for their simple, yet costly mistakes.
After all, many fond memories were had between United and McIlroy – United’s second-leg tie with Ajax in the 1976 UEFA Cup at Old Trafford. As European football finally returned to its rightful spot, reds welcomed the Dutch outfit with roars and belief beyond this universe. The tone was set in the second leg as United fell 1-0 in Amsterdam, and were determined to make their European dreams right once again. Lou Macari scored the opener for the hosts before McIlroy made his mark in football glory, scoring a winner in European competition.
McIlroy was the beneficiary of the simplest of finished past the Ajax goalkeeper from a brilliant set up by Steve Coppell to Brian Greenhoff, who played a splendid ball to the awaiting Irishman. As he’d done so well throughout his career, his awareness in the box to loose his defender freed him for the brief moment to send the already electrified Old Trafford crowd, to euphoria.
Drink up McIlroy, and relive those glorious memories throughout your football career. A genius during his time, and a pest in the box – Super Sam, will forever be a red.