"Billy Bingham came to watch me in a friendly game to check me over for a World Cup call-up. He didn't pick me. However, to be fair, they didn't do too badly without me" - George Best
He took his seat in the stand hoping to be reminded of an era that was once glorious.
Although on the brink of taking the nation he was in charge of to their first World Cup since 1958, there was something that needed to be checked out should he complete the job.
One of the world's greatest players had done it all. League titles, FA Cups and a European Cup. Despite his then-club restricting his appearances for his country to a minimum, he had still done enough to be their best-ever performer.
However, the player that was under the microscope this night had been a bit of a performer off the pitch as well.
George Best was undoubtedly one of the greatest talents ever to step onto a football pitch but off it, he was a car crash waiting to happen.
Booze and parties were ignored while he did it on the pitch for Manchester United. But the past decade had seen his extra-curricular activities impinge on his footballing performance with Best either underperforming or not turn up for games.
He had drifted to Fulham, Cork City, Hibs and now found himself in the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, San Jose Earthquakes, where top players went to in the twilight of their careers in search of one final big payday.
When playing for his country, Northern Ireland, it was obvious he was their best player. Unfortunately, while packed with good professionals, the North were lacking another couple of outfield players of Best's calibre that could have made it to a World Cup.
He had not played for his country since 1977, but since then, fortunes of the 'Wee Country' improved under manager Billy Bingham who was now watching Best play in what was effectively an audition.
Northern Ireland were in a good position football-wise. Drawn in what had looked a difficult World Cup qualifying group (Scotland, Sweden, Portugal and Israel were their opponents) they had stepped up to the plate and caused problems for their more-fancied rivals.
Scotland had got off to a flying start and would stay top of the group to qualify for Spain '82. Northern Ireland, Sweden and Portugal triangle turned into a gun-fight at high noon with the Irish in pole position going into the last game only needing a draw against Israel at Belfast.
By going to check on George Best, Bingham was not presuming anything was in the bag but this would probably be his only chance to see if the greatest player his nation ever produced could still pull off some of the old magic.
San Jose had arranged a friendly match at one of Best's old clubs Hibs. Bingham had gone to Edinburgh hoping to be taken back to memories of a genius unlocking the opposition with a piece of skill that many could only dream about.
Granted there was an argument that Bingham should, upon qualification, stick with the players that had already served him well. However, this was a special case. Best by name, and when on song, Best by nature.
Unfortunately, it just wasn't happening for George. The mind may have been willing but on this night at Easter Road, an ageing body, no longer able to cope and recover from mass quantities of booze it had consumed over the years, could not respond.
Some had said that there was no way Best could be ready given he was playing in the NASL - a lower standard of football compared to the major European leagues. However, Bingham had Jimmy Nicholl and David McCreery playing NASL football for Toronto and Tulsa respectively but they could still cut it and proved so when in the green of Northern Ireland.
No, that was not a barrier for Bingham. Had Best shown a glimmer of his sublime talent, the North manager would have to think seriously about the possibility of taking him to Spain.
That would not be a problem Bingham would be having. Best had a stinker. Hibs won the game 3-1 but even if he had shone in a defeated team, that wouldn't have mattered.
The last thing to go in a boxer is the punch. Best's equivalent had gone.
A few weeks later, a Gerry Armstrong goal gave Northern Ireland a 1-0 over Israel and booked them on the plane to Spain the following summer.
George Best would be watching events unfold on TV - quite possibly the best player never to have played in a World Cup.
"Billy Bingham went to check out his form and Bestie had one of those lost weekends. Sadly such a player of George's skill should have graced the World Cup finals and I would loved to have been a member of the team if George was fit and able but unfortunately that was not the case" - Billy Hamilton
As the summer of 1982 approached, World Cup fever in three of the four UK provinces that had qualified for the tournament was high.
Indeed, the three teams of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England were clearly high on something given all of them decided to try their luck at topping the music charts and released records for the fans to (ahem) sing along to.
The 1980s is widely regarded as the starting point of the British record buying public losing their taste in music and buying any old crap that BBC's Radio 1 told them to. The sixties may have swung, the seventies may have rocked but the eighties (and subsequent decades) honked. Which probably convinced the footballers that they stood a good chance of topping the hit parade.
England released the terrace dirge that was "This Time" which sounded like as if they had conjured it up in the boozer after several pints of that very fizzy lager that London town is renown for.
Scotland meanwhile decided that they would not call upon Andy Cameron to spew out a sequel to the cringeworthy "Ally's Army" from 1978 but instead asked a hit-maker of the day, BA Robertson (I did say the '80s was music's decline) to pen "We Have A Dream" with actor John Gordon Sinclair reprising his role from the film "Gregory's Girl" (which itself was quite good) as the narrator describing his dream of scoring the winner (coincidently enough, a penalty against England) in the World Cup final.
Then there was Northern Ireland's release. They drafted in the help of Dana who had won the Eurovision Song Contest for the Republic of Ireland back in 1970. She no doubt thought doing "Yer Man" with the boys from Ulster would get her back into the limelight. It was wishful thinking.
Fun and games in the recording studio aside, something more sinister was happening in the other side of the world which threatened to scupper the participation of all three British teams.
On April 2nd, 1982, Argentina invaded the British-held territory of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. The British government's response was to send a military task force to retake the islands.
With three of the four British provinces and Argentina all playing in that summer's World Cup this was a potential political powderkeg. As we know, Spain were hosting the tournament and fresh rounds of talks over the dispute over the territory - held by Britain - of Gibraltar on the southern Spanish coast, were threatened to be overshadowed by what was going on at the other side of the world.
There was also the potential of one of the home nations meeting Argentina as the tournament progressed. In fact, a more explosive situation was averted by a cock-up in the draw for the World Cup in December 1981 being spotted.
That particular event was remembered as being a case of live TV going wrong. Balls that contained the names of the countries wouldn't open, the spinning wheels employed to give the draw that 'lottery feeling' wouldn't spin and one country in particular was placed in the wrong group.
Scotland was that country.
Teams were split into four categories based on seeding. Scotland were in the second group with England in the first one and Northern Ireland in the third category. Argentina, as holders, were in the same batch as England and could not draw them.
But for a few seconds, Argentina was drawn with Scotland.
Had that been allowed to stand then come April 1982, the various diplomatic circles in government would have been in a state of apoplexy. Argentina playing against one of the British nations during a time of war between them and the United Kingdom? If you thought West Germany and East Germany facing each other in 1974 was tasty.....
However, some bright spark at the draw noticed something was awry. As well as Argentina, Scotland had also been placed with Belgium who like the Scots, were in the second seed category. No two teams from the same category could face each other.
As Belgium had been drawn first, they remained with Argentina while the Scots were moved into Brazil's group which also had the USSR. From a footballing point of view, Scottish fans would have preferred to have stayed in that group as their chances of qualifying might have improved given how badly Argentina would perform.
Whether they would have been allowed to play would have been another matter.
Because even though that scenario had been avoided, there was still a very good chance that no matter if Scotland qualified for the second group stage as winners of their respective first round group with Argentina as runners-up of theirs, and vice-versa, a meeting between the two would happen.
Given how the draw panned out, England and Northern Ireland would only be able to meet Argentina in the final itself but it was the potential Scotland meeting that had Downing Street in a state of anxiety.
Cabinet papers released last year reveal how serious this all was and how close all three home nations came to being withdrawn from the World Cup. The then Environment Secretary, Michael Heseltine, was called upon to draw up a paper to investigate all the possible options open to Margaret Thatcher's government and the three footballing home nations.
As was reported in "The Guardian" newspaper last year:
"Heseltine told the cabinet: 'Ministers have argued publicly that the UK teams should not be penalised by withdrawal given Argentina's role as aggressor in the Falklands'. He said some footballers had expressed concern about playing in a competition with Argentina, adding that there was 'some feeling in our own party that this would be unacceptable'.
Heseltine told his cabinet colleagues that while the government had 'no powers to ban sporting contacts', the football authorities had adopted a 'highly responsible attitude', and indicated they would 'follow a government call for a boycott.'
The Scottish Football Association was said to be prepared to pull out if the government asked them to. The English FA told the sports minister, Neil Macfarlane: 'it would be difficult for England to play Argentina if at the time hostilities were taking place in the South Atlantic.'
Any boycott move would have to be made by the cabinet, Heseltine said. While the football authorities were unlikely to withdraw independently, he continued, 'there would of course be merit in the football authorities being seen to take their decisions without government pressure if that were possible.'
Heseltine warned that such government pressure was likely to be seen as 'a gesture against Spain (as a consequence of Spanish attitudes over the Falklands) with implications for tourism'. That, in turn, could have adverse effects on British interests over the opening of the Gibraltar border due to take place on 25 June, he warned.
Moreover, withdrawal by British teams 'would undoubtedly be greeted with pleasure in Argentina, who would regard it as a moral victory over the UK'. It would also have financial consequences, including a heavy fine from football's governing body Fifa, claims for compensation by the football associations, which could be bankrupted, and a ban on competing in the 1986 World Cup. 'While there might be no legal obligations on her majesty's government for compensation, there could be a moral one', said Heseltine.
Heseltine concluded: 'My present view is that HMG should not yet suggest withdrawal to the football authorities, be that we should be ready to adopt that course, at short notice if the situation worsens and in the light of public opinion'."
The British Olympic Association decided to refuse the boycott option and went to Moscow to compete. The government of the day let them board the plane.
As they did with the rebel England cricketers who toured the pariah apartheid state that was South Africa in 1981 which was a violation of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement not to send sporting teams to that nation unless the racist framework that was apartheid was dismantled.
However, given the Thatcher government was one nation that kept open trade links with that barbaric regime, it was no surprise that a blind eye was turned to that instance.
With regards to the World Cup, all three home nations were in a state of 'as you were'. They could all fly out to Spain and by the time that they did, Britain had successfully retaken the Falklands back from Argentina.
A BOY CALLED NORMAN
"The only thing I have in common with George Best is that we come from the same place, play for the same club and were discovered by the same man" - Norman Whiteside
However, England, and Scotland for that matter, had more options to pick from with regard to central midfielders and had a certain Norman Whiteside from the Shankill area of Belfast been born on either side of the mainland's River Tweed, he almost certainly would not have gone to Spain.
Nations like Northern Ireland, who had a much smaller pool to select players from, could not afford to be picky. However, Billy Bingham was not of a mind to cast his net and reel in 'any old Ulsterman'. As demonstrated with the George Best scenario, if Bingham did not think you could do a job for him, you could forget about packing the suntan oil and the sombrero.
He may only have been 17-years-old but Whiteside had something about him. From Belfast and a Manchester United player he may have been, there ended the comparison with Best.
Whiteside was a midfield engine who could push forward in attack as opposed to Best's 'wing genius'. But he had something about him despite his years. Bingham saw it along with a lot of other people.
As a schoolboy, an Ipswich Town scout recognised his talent only for then-manager (and future England boss) Bobby Robson to refrain from signing him until he grew older. Manchester United were not so coy and given that their scout in Ulster, Bob Bishop, had brought them Best and McIlroy, they wisely trusted their man's judgement and secured Whiteside's signature despite the late efforts of Liverpool to sign him up.
While his natural talent was evident, what impressed Bingham was also his strength and stamina. Most teenage footballers take a few years to fully develop into a rounded athlete but it appeared Whiteside had already done so.
It would be a risk to take him along but as Bingham's squad already had a fair number drawn from the English second tier, the North American Soccer League and part-timers from the Irish League, a boy deemed good enough to cut it with one of England's top clubs was not that great a gamble. And so it proved.
NO BEST IN NORTHERN IRELAND? WHAT ABOUT PAT?
"Pat Jennings for about four or five years was probably the best goalkeeper in the world. Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian, is the world transfer for a goalkeeper at £37million I don't think Buffon is actually as good a goalkeeper as Jennings. Pat gave us so much assurance because even when they got through the defence we knew they still had Pat to beat and that wasn't too often" - Gerry Armstrong
However, Spain would offer another legend from Ulster the chance to finally play on the big stage. Pat Jennings would eventually end his career playing at another World Cup in Mexico four years later but back in 1982, he must have thought this would be his one and only sniff at it.
From Newry, Co. Down, Jennings had also been a promising Gaelic Footballer but it was playing for Newry Town that alerted mainland scouts that this was a talent too good to be allowed to drift off to the GAA.
Watford signed him before he headed off to the bright lights of Tottenham Hotspur. Jennings, despite his youth had already established himself as Northern Ireland's first choice goalkeeper and had also made his international debut alongside Best.
Brilliant though Best was, his consistency was erratic. Jennings would deliver time and again and became a permanent fixture in the national team.
He was also someone you wrote off at your peril. In 1977, Tottenham let him go thinking that at 32, his best years had passed him by.
But it was fellow Ulsterman Terry Neill, a former international team-mate of Jennings, who as manager of Tottenham's bitter rivals Arsenal, persuaded Pat to move across north London and sign for the Gunners.
Jennings showed his critics that he was far from finished and contributed to Arsenal reaching four major cup finals in three years.
However, it seemed as if he would be another one to join the list of great players never to play in a World Cup until Fifa expanded the tournament from 16 to 24 teams and with it increased the opportunity for qualification - which Northern Ireland did.
So on a humid summer night in Zaragoza, a 37-year-old goalkeeper, finally stepped out to play in a World Cup... and a wee country was grateful that he did.
OPENING GAME IS NOT A TIME TO BALKAN
They threatened to do just that in the opening half. More used to the humid climate than the Irish, who like most from the British & Irish Isles take a week of sunbathing to get blue, the men from the Balkans quickly settled into a groove.
One man in particular was giving the Ulsterman all sorts of problems. Safet Sušić of FK Sarajevo, widely considered to be Bosnia's greatest ever player, was quickly making his mark with a mazy dribble that left three for dead and had he put his shot an inch the other side of the post, he would have scored one of the great World Cup goals.
He had another chance to open the scoring soon after. The Yugoslavs sliced through the Irish midfield with ease before the ball was teed up for Sušić whose half-volley was only denied by a brilliant save by Jennings.
Northern Ireland eventually found their feet with Gerry Armstrong replicating Sušić's earlier attempt with a mazy dribble through the centre of his own only to hit his long-range shot wide.
But getting the ball off the Yugoslavs proved to be troublesome with Sušić once again pulling the strings as his precise through ball sent Ivan Gudelj clear. Although Jennings managed to jockey the Croat wide of goal, the ball was played back to Edhem Šljivo. The Bosnian duly launched a floating chip which was only prevented from going in by a header off the line by Mal Donaghy.
From the resulting corner, Jennings sharp reflexes were once more called into play as Gudelj lost his marker to aim a header at goal which the Irish keeper did well to save.
In the second half, Northern Ireland put up a better show and began to stop the Yugoslavs dictating the game. Chris Nicholl had a header that just went over while Sammy McIlroy had a long-range effort saved by Dragan Pantelić.
With the Ulstermen fronting up to the Yugoslavs a lot better than they had done in the first half, the game locked into a stalemate and petered out to a goalless draw.
Given the quality of their opponents and the very humid conditions, Northern Ireland could take a lot of pride from getting a draw against a team tipped to be a potential dark horse for the tournament.
When the first round draw was made, many would have thought "draw v Yugoslavia, beat Honduras and then anything goes against Spain and see what happens".
However, the best laid plans....
ARE YOU SURE THESE GUYS ARE WHIPPING BOYS?
"We took on Honduras and they were tremendously athletic and capable of changing the tempo from slow to quick in a flash. It was difficult to get to grips with that" - Billy Hamilton
It looked like a case of it being 'business as usual' in 1982 - especially with Hungary smashing El Salvador 10-1 (the Latins would keep the score down considerably in defeats to Belgium and Argentina). But the other small fry were made of sterner stuff.
Cameroon had held Peru to a draw and would do so with Poland and Italy only to be knocked out by the latter on goal difference.
Kuwait put in credible performances in their draw with Czechoslovakia and narrow defeat to England. Although the farcical scene of an Arab Sheikh forcing a referee to disallow a French goal during their 4-1 defeat to France would be that nation's enduring World Cup legacy.
The part-timers of New Zealand, as expected from a nation where rugby is the be all and end all, did their best but were not disgraced in losses to Scotland, USSR and Brazil - although the two goals they scored against the Scots proved pivotal in sending Jock Stein's men to yet another first round exit.
Algeria were shamefully cheated out of their place in footballing history. Having pulled off a surprise win against West Germany, they would lose to Austria but had surely qualified for the second stage by beating Chile? Only a scoreline of West Germany 1 Austria 0 would put them out on goal difference.... sure enough, the two Germanic-speaking nations contrived to carve out that scoreline which even had fans and media from both countries blasting their respective teams for not adhering to the spirit of the game.
But what of Honduras? Their only notable contribution to World Cup history was starting a war against El Salvador after the latter had beaten them to qualify for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
The expansion of the tournament allowed both bitter Central American rivals to qualify for Spain but little was known about either - especially the Hondurans.
After seeing El Salvador being smacked for 10 by Hungary, the Spanish hosts thought Honduras would be easy prey as well only to receive the shock of their lives when their maligned visitors took an early lead. Spain levelled in the second half but could not break down a resilient Honduran side as the game finished 1-1.
For those of a Northern Irish persuasion, any claim of the Honduras game being a home-banker for a win went flying out of the window. This would be a tough game alright.
However, in the 10th minute, the Irish would do what they had waited since 1958 to do - score in a World Cup. McIlroy's curling free-kick came back off the bar. An advancing Chris Nicholl hit the woodwork again with a header from the rebound. Fortunately, Armstrong was on hand to head the ball over the line and put the Irish 1-0 up.
But as they had demonstrated against Spain, Honduras could play a bit and they nearly hit back when from a corner, Porfirio Betancourt smashed the underside of the bar with Jennings beaten.
The Latins soon got into their stride and some good link-up play allowed Roberto Figueroa to burst inside the box only to shoot straight at Jennings.
McIlroy went close at the other end as his half-volley from 30-yards out narrowly whistled past the post.
The game quickly went back towards Jennings' goal and Figueroa's clever lob from the edge of the box nearly snuck in but for Jimmy Nicholl's headed clearance off the line.
Trying to give themselves some respite against their determined opposition, Northern Ireland pressed for a second goal that would hopefully take the wind out of Honduran sails.
They nearly got it as well when Armstrong's low drive across the box evaded an outstretched Chris Nicholl who if his foot had been an inch bigger would surely have scored.
Armstrong thought he had added to his tally but was left holding his head in anguish as his shot from outside the area hit the post and the rebound fell back into the arms of a grateful Honduran goalkeeper, Julio César Arzú.
Then in the second half came the turning point. McIlroy's cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Armstrong to Whiteside who duly put the ball into the net.
However, the referee had judged, somewhat rashly going by the footage, that Armstrong had fouled a Honduran defender when teeing up Whiteside.
Spurred on by this let-off, Honduras began to assert themselves as they had done earlier in the first half with only a superb one-handed save by Jennings from Betancourt's header denying them an equaliser.
But the reprieve was temporary as from the resultant corner, Eduardo Laing shook off his marker to launch a diving header from close-range which bulleted past Jennings to level the game at 1-1.
Northern Ireland pushed forward to try and restore their lead with Billy Hamilton's low drive agonisingly going past the post. Armstrong went close as well only for his effort to be well-saved by Arzú.
However, as Spain had already found out, this Honduran side was a hard one to shake off and Irish hearts were in their mouths when Figueroa's rasping, low shot from 30 yards out narrowly flew past the post via an outstretched finger of Jennings.
A draw it was and the Irish looked a sorry sight as they trudged off dejectedly from the pitch. The game that had been targeted as the most likely source of a victory had not gone to plan.
Spain had earlier beaten Yugoslavia 2-1 - a result which meant that the only way Northern Ireland could qualify for the second stage was to beat the host nation at Valencia.
An impossible mission it may have looked but one that would eventually turn out to be a piece of cake.
IS THIS HOW YOU BOOZY IRISH PREPARE FOR A BIG GAME?
"He was singing ‘Danny Boy’ and all sorts. It was hilarious - even one of the guards began to sway to his singing" - Tommy Cassidy
After all, they had a talented squad capable of competing with any team in the world. The Yugoslav victory had restored their faith - they had viewed that fixture as being the one which would decide who won the group.
Many still clung to the firm belief that the footballing Gods would decree that Spain would meet the entertaining Brazil in the final for the 'madre of all fiestas'.
Northern Ireland were seen as someone who could put up a challenge but would be overcome by the talented Spanish players - not to mention the Mediterranean heat and the cauldron that would be the Estadio Luis Casanova in Valencia that would be packed with 50,000 Latins baying for Ulster blood.
In short, the Irish were to be a stepping stone. Turn up, get thrashed, receive a pat on the head and go back home.
A few days before the game, manager Billy Bingham was invited to attend a function where a factory was making a replica of the World Cup trophy.
With the gaffer out of the way for a few hours, the Irish squad decided to have a bit of fun. As Billy Hamilton told "The Belfast Telegraph" newspaper last year:
"Billy (Bingham) told us that for our own good we had to curtail our social activities and we weren't allowed outside the hotel.
"One afternoon Billy went to a factory which was making a replica of the World Cup and we were instructed not to go anywhere, so that day we all ended up beside the pool having a few cans of beer.
"One of our players Tommy Cassidy, a good midfielder, but who never looked the fittest, was sitting in a deckchair with a cowboy hat on him. We put our drinks close to him so he had a mountain of beer beside him with his belly hanging out over his shorts.
"A Spanish photographer took a picture of this and it appeared in a local paper with a big headline 'This is how the Irish prepare for the big game!'
"It was as if they were laughing at us. That backfired on them though because it gave us even more resolve when we played Spain."
While the phrase 'no surrender' has alternative meanings in Northern Ireland (depending of which side of the religious sectarian divide you were on), for Bingham's team comprising of both Protestants and Catholics, it would be an apt, if not unifying slogan for the Irish that particular night.
"Billy (Bingham) was very good at motivating players. He would make you feel 10 feet tall when you went onto the pitch. He never made you feel second best. He had a very good tactical plan He knew that if we could swamp the mid field that would stop the Spaniards passing through us and getting into the box. If they got into the box he knew they would dive and try and get penalties and that and if you watch the game again you will see most of the defending was done just outside our box He just told us to feed on the crumbs we would get a chance during the game" - Billy Hamilton
The pressure kept building with Jennings again on hand to deny López Ufarte a goal from his curling left-foot shot from outside the box while José Ramón Alexanko headed over the bar.
Despite their talent in abundance, the Spanish team of the early 80s was noted for something else - foul play.
To say that they were a bunch of hackers would be an understatement. Even the notorious Kray brothers, tooled up with snooker balls in a sock, would have second thoughts about going into a 50/50 challenge with a Spanish footballer.
Northern Ireland found this not to be the stuff of rumour and hearsay. Petulant whacks off the ball were flying in while tackles that looked more likely to be aimed at the man instead of the ball were also on the menu.
Coincidentally enough, Fifa had appointed a Spanish-speaking referee for this game, Héctor Ortiz of Paraguay, and it seemed he was making more use of his turning blind eye than his whistle.
Cool Ulster heads were needed and it seemed that the main inspiration was coming not from the experienced players but from the young boy, Norman Whiteside who appeared to have Spanish hatchet men bouncing off him without a hint of a retaliatory action from the Belfast lad.
"When you saw Norman he actually looked like a mature man. He defied his youth certainly his temperament as well and he had immense body strength for someone of 17 years of age" - Gerry Armstrong
Two minutes into the second half, the most famous moment in Northern Ireland's footballing history happened.
Armstrong intercepted Rafael Gordillo's misplaced pass deep inside his own half. he surged up to the halfway line where he released Billy Hamilton on the right.
Hamilton then held off Miguel Tendillo's challenge. He proceeded to race towards the byline where he put a low cross into the box.
Spanish goalkeeper Luis Arconada was rated as one of the best in the world but it was at this moment where he made a horrendous mistake.
Instead of trying to catch Hamilton's cross with both hands, he inexplicably flapped at the ball and palmed it back into play.
Armstrong, who had continued his run, found himself with a chance of glory and he didn't need to be asked twice if he wanted to take it.
Spain 0 Northern Ireland 1
Such was the stunned silence in the stadium, Armstrong had initially thought the goal had been disallowed only for a delighted Sammy McIlroy to run over to him to confirm that it had stood.
However, on reflection, the Ulstermen might well have had a slice of luck.
"I don't think my 'nudge' on Tendillo would be allowed today. The game is not as physical today as it was 20 years ago. But if anyone was deserving of a slap it was Tendillio. He was a bit of an animal and he probably never felt it anyway but it wasn't as much an elbow as a leverage to get past him. But I don't think it would be allowed today no" - Billy Hamilton
The Honduras draw was bad enough but losing at home to Northern Ireland? Host nations were not meant to be shown up in their own backyard. Not to mention that if the Irish scored again, Spain would be knocked out on goal difference by Yugoslavia.
For Northern Ireland, a second goal was the furthest thing from their minds. They needed to win and had taken the lead against the run of play. They were going to defend this with their lives.
Jennings got a flavour of what was to come his way when he saved López Ufarte's close-range effort. Then came what is cynically known by fans around the world as a refereeing 'honest mistake'.
Mal Donaghy and José Antonio Camacho both chased down a loose ball which ran out of play. Then came a pushing and shoving match which at best lasted a couple of seconds.
Our Spanish-speaking referee from Paraguay decided he was going to take action and give Spain a helping hand - he sent Donaghy off while letting the equally culpable Camacho remain on the pitch.
Now the Irish were really up against it.
They received a huge let-off when an unmarked Enrique Castro González Quini blazed the ball over the bar from six-yards out.
Another one came soon after when Carlos Alonso González Santillana narrowly failed to connect with Gordillo's cross with his head. Had he done so, an equaliser was certain.
Then in the dying seconds all Northern Ireland's hard work was nearly undone by a fluke.
Miguel Ángel Alonso lofted a hopeful ball into the box which seemed to be going harmlessly into the path of Jennings only for it to take an unnatural high bounce.
The Irish keeper's heart was undoubtedly in his mouth as the ball looked set to loop over his head and into the net.
Thankfully, the Newry man managed to scramble back and pluck the ball from out of the sky despite the attentions of Juan Gómez González Juanito who was ready to pounce for any rebound or fumble from Jennings.
And then it was over. The celebrations could begin but as midfielder Tommy Cassidy revealed in "The Lancashire Telegraph" newspaper back in 2010, a private party in the most unlikely of surroundings had to take place:
“One of the things I’ll never ever forget was immediately after the game finished, myself and Gerry Armstrong were taken away for a drugs test.
“Obviously, we’d love to have gone straight into the dressing room to celebrate with the rest of the lads, but there wasn’t an issue with me and Gerry giving a urine sample.
“The only problem was that we were both so dehydrated that it took us an hour and a half to give a sample.
“We were sat under armed guards, next to FIFA doctors and officials, and it was just so funny that it took us so long. We simply couldn’t pee!
“We tried and tried, drinking water, lager and even wine to help us.
"Gerry drank so much alcohol that he was little bit drunk.
"He was singing ‘Danny Boy’ and all sorts. It was hilarious – even one of the guards began to sway to his singing. That will stick with me forever.
“All the other lads waited for us and it took us so long that we didn’t have time to change before getting on the coach to travel back to our hotel as quickly as possible.
"The last 20 minutes (of the game) were like the Alamo. It was wave after wave of attack and we’d be do anything to stop them scoring.
“I remember Sammy Nelson came on for the last 20 minutes. He’s a left back but was running all over the place.
“When we had a breather, I said to him: ‘What position are you supposed to be in?’ to which he replied ‘I haven’t got a f******* clue'.
“Pat Jennings - a great friend of mine - was unreal. It wasn’t just his saves.
"He came out for everything, corners and crosses, and scooped them up with one hand.
"That night, I thought to myself that he was the best goalkeeper in the world.
“At the final whistle, we didn’t initially celebrate. We just looked at each other for about 10 seconds in amazement.
"We couldn't believe what we’d done. We had beaten Spain in their backyard. It was unthinkable.”
"A true story happened when we beat Spain we had to move onto Madrid and the hotel we were going into the Yugoslavian team from our section had to pack their bags and get out because they were that sure we were not going to beat Spain - we actually crossed them on the stairs" - Billy Hamilton
As for the powderkeg Argentina issue mentioned earlier, the British Government breathed a sigh of relief as while the South American nation they had just defeated in a war had made it into the second stage, Scotland - as was becoming their custom - shot themselves in the foot as they were knocked out by the USSR on goal difference.
However, with regards to the Irish, there would be no return against Spain in the last four or a dream tie with a place in the final at stake against old rivals England.
Although the English left the tournament unbeaten, failure to beat Spain and West Germany - two goalless draws being the final results - led to them being edged out by the Germans who had taken care of the Spanish.
Northern Ireland put in an admirable effort against Austria but despite two Billy Hamilton goals, they could only draw 2-2 with the Austrian goals coming from Bruno Pezzy and Reinhold Hintermaier..
Northern Ireland did start well and were denied the lead when Martin O'Neill's strike was incorrectly ruled out for offside.
That let-off was duly cashed in by the French who turned on the style with a slick, free-flowing display of football that left the Irish chasing shadows for the rest of the game as two goals each from Alain Giresse and Dominique Rocheteau gave them a convincing 4-1 victory despite Gerry Armstrong's consolation strike.
That result against Spain is still talked about today and not surprisingly Gerry Armstrong rates it as a career highlight - it won him a lucrative move to Spanish side Real Mallorca. A sharp contrast from Watford.
As Tommy Cassidy said in his interview with "The Lancashire Telegraph" five years ago, the magnitude of what they had done against the Spanish was immense and is rightly acclaimed to this day by every Northern Ireland fan:
"We knew people back home were celebrating. In 1982, we were in the midst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, but for one day or so, religion was all forgotten about.
“It was a hell of a night in Valencia. I remember at about 6am the next morning, I walked out onto the balcony of my hotel room because I heard a clicking noise.
“As it happened, Malcolm Brodie, the famous Northern Ireland football reporter, (of 'The Belfast Telegraph') was in the room next door writing up his match report on a typewriter.
“He said to me: ‘I’m just finishing off my piece and my final words are, ‘I was there’.
"He said it was the greatest match he’d ever been to.
“About 10 or 15 years later, I met up with him in Belfast.
"When we looked at each other, he pointed at me straight away and said again, ‘I was there.’
“It showed how much that game meant to him and to people in Northern Ireland.
"His words encapsulated it.”