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Norman Whiteside (born 7 May 1965 in Rathcoole, Northern Irelandmarker) is a former Northern Irish football player who represented his country in two World Cups. He played for Manchester United (273 appearances, 66 goals) and Everton, before his career was ended by injury at the age of 26. He won the FA Cup twice during his time playing for Manchester United, in 1983 and 1985.

Raised in North Belfast, he attended Cairnmartin Secondary School on the Ballygomartin Road. He was discovered by Manchester United's Ulster scout Bob Bishop, who previously hired Belfast-born George Best and Sammy McIlroy to the club. Whiteside 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.

Whiteside broke Pelé's record as the youngest player to appear in a World Cup, when he debuted for Northern Irelandmarker 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 Zaragozamarker was his international debut; he received a yellow card in the second half.

At the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexicomarker, he scored in his country's only result in the tournament, a 1-1 draw against Algeria. Whiteside 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 as his career progressed. Though not possessing the pace needed to be a genuine forward, Whiteside 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. However, some thought he was too physical at times, with even his manager later admitting that in a 1987 game against Arsenal "Big Norman Whiteside kicked everybody up and down the pitch for 90 minutes and didn't even get booked!". He became known as "The Shankill Skinhead" because of aggressive, physical playing style.

Another reason why he was loved by United faithful were his consistently remarkable match-winning displays against the team's bitter Merseyside rivals in the league; Liverpool and Everton, who at that time were two of the more dominant and successful clubs in Englandmarker. 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 Whiteside his second FA Cup winner's medal. Norman Whiteside was passionately called "The Scourge of the Scousers" as a result of these exploits.

Despite such a promising start, Whiteside began to have serious injury problems which kept him out of the team for long periods. Also, Alex Ferguson made a point of improving team discipline when he took over as manager, and Whiteside's drinking was not tolerated as it had been under the previous manager Ron Atkinson. It was this that led Ferguson to sell him to Everton in 1989, against the wishes of most of United's support, although in his 2007 autobiography Determined: My Autobiography, Whiteside says that he had put in the transfer request.

Whiteside started well at Everton, but he was unable to shake off his knee injury. Having had some 13 operations performed on his knee during his career, Whiteside 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 football. He had made only 29 appearances for Everton, most of them during his first season.

Upon retirement, Whiteside studied to become a podiatrist and now works at the Professional Footballers' Association. He released his autobiography entitled Determined in August 2007. He is also an accomplished after-dinner speaker, and has appeared regularly on Soccer AM since August 2007 as a joke-teller in a comedy sketch.

Since the mid to late 1990s, Whiteside has been back at Manchester United, running guided "legend" tours of their Old Traffordmarker stadium, as well as corporate meet-and-greet sessions on match days.

References

  1. The Joy of Six: Manchester Utd v Arsenal showdowns | Sport | guardian.co.uk


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