Ray Houghton - 25 years on from that memorable night in Stuttgart

Kevin Doyle

NELSON Mandela was still in prison, Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five were riding high in the charts, Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach… and Ray Houghton put the ball in the English net.

It was 25 years ago today that Ireland debuted in their first major soccer tournament and still people are buying Houghton pints to thank him for that memorable night in Stuttgart.

“It was actually my first goal for Ireland and it’s something you never forget,” the Scotsman said today.

His flashback to the glory days of Irish football came after Giovanni Trapatonni’s side went down 2-0 to world champions Spain in a New York friendly last night.

Houghton (51) said that his only wish for that night during Euro ‘88 was that he could have been in Dublin to see the reaction at the same thing.

“It’s things like that where the players wish they were split in the two. Obviously you want to be at the grounds to celebrate the victory but the other part would like to have been back in Ireland to celebrate with the fans.

“When we saw the pictures from home, everywhere was going crazy, and that was a delight to see.”

But he has spent the past quarter of a century basking in the glory of that goal which he says was “quiet easy in many respects” to score.

“Even now when I go back to Ireland people come out and say ‘thank you’,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTE Radio’s John Murrary Show.

“I do get bought pints, I won’t say as regular as I once did but I do.”

He explained that English goalkeeper Peter Shilton “wasn’t the biggest” and “left a lot of room for me to head the ball into”.

“It really was just a matter of getting the ball on target. It was very, very special.”

Houghton also recalled how many people thought that legendary manager Jack Charlton looked unhappy after the sixth minute goal.

“As overjoyed as he was Jack, he said it was the longest period of his footballing career,” he said.

“A lot of people said he was disappointed, if you ever see the pictures of Jack, you’d think he was disappointed that we scored against England but it was nothing like that. “What actually happened was he jumped up so quickly that he hit his head of the dugout and he was in a lot of pain at the time.”

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa star also told how Charlton gave him less than 24 hours to decide if he wanted to play for Ireland.

His father was born in Donegal meaning that the Glaswegian qualified.

“He said he’d give me a few days to think about it and he rang me the next morning to see if I’d made a decision and I had. It was the best decision I ever made,” said Houghton.