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Snap shot: Newcomers Ireland stun England

Our series focusing on the big moments in EURO history and the people involved reaches 1988, when Ray Houghton gave the Republic of Ireland a dream introduction to major finals.

Snap shot: Newcomers Ireland stun England
Snap shot: Newcomers Ireland stun England ©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

The Republic of Ireland could not have enjoyed a better start to their first appearance at a major finals. Six minutes into their EURO '88 opener in Stuttgart, a catalogue of England defensive errors led to John Aldridge, one of five Liverpool players in action, heading to the 1.70m-tall Ray Houghton whose own header looped beyond Peter Shilton. With Packie Bonner in brilliant form at the other end, one goal would be enough.

Houghton scores against Italy
Houghton scores against Italy©Getty Images

1 Ray Houghton
Glasgow-born Houghton was rejected by club and country in his teens, deemed not good enough by West Ham and Scotland's youth set-ups. He made them eat their words, becoming a two-time league champion at Liverpool and starring for Ireland – his father was from Donegal. If midfield industry was his stock-in-trade, he also had a happy knack of scoring on the biggest occasions, not least his stunning winner against Italy at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He is now a television and radio pundit.

2 Peter Shilton
One of the greatest British goalkeepers of all time. Over a 31-year career between 1966 and 1997, Shilton played over 1,300 competitive games, claiming a league title and two European Cups with Nottingham Forest. His record of 125 England caps remains unsurpassed. He played at five major tournaments despite having to wait till he was 30 for his first taste in 1980, though his memories of the 1986 World Cup were somewhat overshadowed by Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God'. Today he is an after-dinner speaker.

Ireland’s EURO 88 adventure

3 Peter Beardsley
Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish broke the then British transfer record to sign Beardsley from home-town side Newcastle in July 1987 and he went into EURO '88 with his reputation enhanced by the first of two championships. Never quite able to replicate club form on the national-team stage, the skilful forward nonetheless served Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle, in a second spell, with distinction. He is currently an academy coach.

4 Kenny Sansom
Quick, calm, strong in the tackle and an excellent crosser, Sansom was the prototype for the modern full-back and a fixture in the England team for a decade. He emerged at Crystal Palace and then made over 300 outings for Arsenal, captaining the Gunners to the League Cup in 1987. He was still only 29 at EURO '88 but with the error that culminated in Houghton's goal contributing to a hapless campaign, he made way for Stuart Pearce after these finals.

Highlights: England 1-3 Netherlands

5 Bryan Robson
Injuries blighted Robson's career, with three leg breaks in a year proving a sign of things to come, but it did not hamper his longevity nor the weight of his statistics. A strong all-round midfielder, he earned 90 caps for England and played 461 matches for Manchester United, assuming the role and nickname of 'Captain Marvel' as he helped end their 26-year wait for a league title. He moved into management, notably at Middlesbrough in his native north-east, yet is now back at Old Trafford as an ambassador.

6 Tony Adams
'Mr Arsenal' himself. A rock at the heart of the Gunners defence for two decades, the gutsy Adams was made captain at 21 and did not relinquish the armband for 14 years. George Graham labelled him "my colossus", Arsène Wenger his "professor", and he retired in 2002 after 669 appearances and four championships. While his international career did not scale such heights, he still mustered 66 caps. Adams tried his hand at coaching and also set up a specialist addiction and recovery facility for athletes.

7 Ronnie Whelan
"Our man for the big occasion," manager Bob Paisley once said of midfielder Whelan eclipsing more celebrated Liverpool team-mates. Dublin-born Whelan's brand of skill and sweat served the Reds for 15 years, yielding six league titles, three FA Cups and the 1984 European Cup. He picked up 53 caps for the Republic, his three Ireland goals including a spectacular long-range effort which secured a point against the USSR three days after the England game. Whelan now works on the after-dinner circuit.

8 Paul McGrath
A late developer – McGrath was 25 before his first cap arrived in 1985 – the centre-back featured 83 times for Ireland and despite being unable to train because of his knees for many years, he was 38 when he retired. The former Manchester United and Aston Villa defender's problems with alcohol addiction are well documented, laid bare by an award-winning autobiography. Now back in Ireland, McGrath is a columnist and radio pundit and he also released an album in 2011.

Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge
Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge©Bob Thomas/Getty Images

9 John Aldridge
'Aldo' came into EURO '88 after plundering 26 goals to help Liverpool clinch the title – but having also become the first player to miss a penalty in an FA Cup final, in a defeat by Wimbledon. A predatory striker, he scored at better than a goal every two games throughout a 20-year career comprising nearly 800 matches. Though it took him 20 outings to net his first national-team goal, he ended up with 19 in 69 for Ireland. Currently a radio pundit.

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