JOBBY CROSSAN is hoping Northern Ireland can take inspiration from his 1964 goal heroics as they plot a way past Switzerland in the first leg of the crunch World Cup play-off at Windsor Park on Thursday night.
The ex-Man City and Sunderland inside forward netted the winning goal from the penalty spot when N. Ireland last defeated the Swiss in a competitive fixture in front of 28,598 spectators at the Belfast venue over 60 years ago!
Crossan was playing alongside the legendary George Best and Pat Jennings for Bertie Peacock’s talented side who were vying for a place in the 1966 World Cup Finals but eventually came up just short in a group which also contained Holland, as the Swiss pipped them to the qualifying spot by a single point.
Derry man, Crossan, who made 24 caps, scoring 10 times for N. Ireland, can look back with great fondness on his international career and he will be a guest of honour at Windsor on Thursday night as he watches Michael O’Neill’s men seek to find a path to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Crossan remains one of three players to score a hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier for N. Ireland, alongside Best and Billy McAdams, having netted three against Albania in a 4-1 victory in May 1965 - a record which he remains hugely proud of.
He expects the Swiss, who lost out on automatic qualification to European champions, Portugal, to prove a huge test but hopes O’Neill’s men can reproduce the spirit of ‘64 and bring an all-important lead into the return leg next Sunday.
“I will be going up for a pre-match dinner with the David Martin, the President of the IFA so I’m looking forward to it,” said Crossan. “Michael O’Neill has been doing a fantastic job but it won’t be easy. I’ve saw Switzerland play recently and it will be tight.
“Switzerland beat us 2-1 in Switzerland in ‘64 but we beat them 1-0 in Windsor and I scored the winner,” he recalled. “I’m looking forward to it and let’s hope they can remain in the tie.”
Reminiscing about that winning penalty against the Swiss in ‘64, Crossan, remembers the disappointment of eventually losing out in qualification by the smallest of margins.
“It was a qualifier at Windsor and we were in the same group as Holland and we also beat them 1-0. Albania were in it too and I scored a hat-trick in that match - I think I’m one of three Northern Ireland players to score a hat-trick in World Cup qualifiers.
“The one before me was Billy McAdams who played for Manchester City. Only three of us have scored a hat-trick for Northern Ireland in World Cup football,” he smiled.
“But Switzerland qualified ahead of us on that occasion - they beat us by one point in the end.”
Guest at the Etihad
It’s been an eventful week for the former Derry City forward as he was invited over as a guest to the Etihad as Sergio Aguero was honoured for becoming Manchester City’s all-time record goalscorer in a pre-match ceremony ahead of the 3-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday.
Switzerland beat us 2-1 in Switzerland in ‘64 but we beat them 1-0 in Windsor and I scored the winner. I’m looking forward to it and let’s hope they can remain in the tie.Jobby Crossan
The Brandywell native captained City for three and-a-half years in the early sixties, helping them to the Second Division title, and joined his former teammates, Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell amongst others, as the Argentine was honoured for hitting his landmark 178th goal for the club - breaking Eric Brook’s 78 year-old record.
Prior to kick-off, Crossan was pitchside as Summerbee and Betty Cowgill, the daughter of Brook, presented Aguero with his prize. And the Derry man insists is was a fantastic occasion for everyone involved.
“I captained Man City for three-and-a-half years and we were fortunate to have a good run so I suppose the club were just showing their appreciation by inviting me to a fantastic occasion. It was a fantastic couple of days.
“I got to see some of the older players, even ex-United players who were there as well. It was a great time.
“Colin Bell and Summerbee were all there, Niall Quinn and Brian Kidd who is a good friend of mine and Tommy Doc the manager for United and all the big boys or heavy pockets. It was great to get talking to them all again. I would keep in touch with Summerbee all the time and I would always have plenty of time for Brian Kidd.
“Everything was taken care of. They had executive boxes for us all and Niall Quinn and former keeper, Alex Williams was in with me. Tony Book was there and we had great craic.
“Summerbee presented the goalscoring award to Aguero with the only person from Brook’s family still alive, his daughter on the pitch. It was colossal stuff. It was first class. That’s the way City are - they’re top notch.
“We were taken care of in top class hotel and flights all paid for so it was great. I have a daughter, Catherine over there who practices medicine so it was a chance to see her too. I would go over regularly.
“When the match started everybody settled down. Breaking the record was unbelievable and Aguero was great. He got a marvellous reception and for him to score too was fitting.”