Norman Whiteside represented Northern Ireland in two World Cups. He played for Manchester United and Everton, before his career was ended by injury at the age of 26.
Raised in North Belfast, he was discovered by famous Ulster Manchester United scout Bob Bishop, who previously took George Best and Sammy McIlroy to the club. Norman became United’s youngest player since Duncan Edwards when he made his debut as a forward in the 1981-82 season. The following year, he appeared in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals and became the youngest player to score in both, winning the FA Cup in the process by beating Brighton & Hove Albion.
He broke Pele’s record as the youngest player to appear in a World Cup, when he debuted for Northern Ireland aged 17 years and 41 days at España 82. He started all five of his country’s matches, including the historic 1-0 win over Spain. The opening game against Yugoslavia in Zaragoza was his international debut; he received a yellow card in the second half.
At the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals he scored in his country’s only result in the tournament, a 1-1 draw against Algeria. Norman won a total of 38 caps and scored 9 times in eight years playing for Northern Ireland.
After starting his career as a centre forward, he was subsequently used more as a midfielder in his career. Though not possessing the pace needed to be a genuine forward, he combined a gritty, physical style of play with an eye for goal combined with some great skill. This made him an instant favourite among Manchester United fans for giving it all on the pitch as well as his adeptness in both going forward or helping the midfield control the game.
He also scored the winning goal in the 1985 FA Cup final, curling a shot in from the right hand side in the 20th minute of extra time, to give ten man United victory over Everton, and Norman his second FA Cup winner’s medal.
Despite such a promising start, Norman began to have serious injury problems which kept him out of the team for long periods.
In 1989 he moved to Everton, where he started well, but he was unable to shake off his knee injury. Having had some 13 operations performed on his knee during his career, he retired from professional football in 1991 at the young age of 26, after a doctor advised him that he might end up being unable to walk if he continued to play. He had made only 29 appearances for Everton, most of them during his first season.
Upon retirement, he studied to become a podiatrist and now works at the Professional Footballers’ Association. He is also an accomplished speaker on the after dinner circuit.
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