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Liam O'Kane

Name: William James O’Kane
Born: 17 June 1948, Londonderry
Height: 5.10½ ft
Weight: 12.01 st
Position: Defender

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 20 Full Caps / 1 Goal (1970-1975).

Club Career:
FA Cup
FL Cup
Derry City
Nottingham Forest


Liam O’Kane was a star in the centre of Derry City’s defence as a teenager, earning a move to Nottingham Forest in November 1968. His initial appearances for Forest were from the substitute’s bench, and he had to wait until the final match of the 1968/69 season for his first start. That match, a 1-0 defeat at Leeds, saw O’Kane pick up the first of many injuries suffered while at the City Ground. He worked hard to regain his fitness and mid-way through the 1969/70 season established himself as a regular at centre-half following the sale of Terry Hennessey.

Once established in the Forest side, O’Kane received much deserved praise. His strength in the air and ability to read the game earned comparisons with Jack Charlton and Brian Labone. Billy Bingham too recognised O’Kane’s assets and included him in the Northern Ireland squad for the Home Nations Championship at the end of the 1969/70 season. He made his debut as substitute for Sammy Todd against Scotland, then started in the Burnley-player’s place for the matches against England and Wales.

O’Kane remained a regular for Northern Ireland in the middle of defence, a game in Moscow spent in midfield aside, until struck down by injury. That injury, a broken leg suffered against Everton in December 1971, ruled him out for over a year. On his return to club action late in the 1972/73 season he established himself at right-back. In his absence Forest had suffered relegation from the First Division, and he would spend the remainder of his career in second-tier football.

When O’Kane returned to the Northern Ireland team in March 1973 he was initially employed in his new club role on the right of defence, but for the remainder of his international career he was more usually to be found in his old position of centre-back. He scored his only goal for his country in a 1-1 draw in Portugal in November 1973, one of just two goals he scored in his entire senior career! At the time of his twentieth and final cap against Scotland in May 1975 O’Kane was Forest’s most capped player (a record later surpassed by international team-mate Martin O’Neill and since by Stuart Pearce).

Injuries continued to plague O’Kane. He began the 1975/76 season at centre-half, but lasted just two games before being ruled out for four months. On his return he was back at right-back, but once again he lasted just a few matches before being struck down again. He played his final League match at Bristol City in February 1976, and was finally forced to admit defeat and hang-up his boots in May 1977. O'Kane thus missed out on Forest's promotion back to Division One and subsequent League title and European Cup wins.

Offered the position of Forest reserve-team coach by Brian Clough, O’Kane remained on the City Ground staff through to 2005 – a 36 year spell with one club. He has since worked as a scout for Aston Villa.

Northern Ireland Cap Details: 
18-04-1970 Scotland H L 0-1 BC sub
21-04-1970 England. A L 1-3 BC
25-04-1970 Wales... A L 0-1 BC
11-11-1970 Spain... A L 0-3 ECQ
15-05-1971 England. H L 0-1 BC
18-05-1971 Scotland A W 1-0 BC

22-05-1971 Wales... H W 1-0 BC
22-09-1971 USSR.... A L 0-1 ECQ
13-10-1971 USSR.... H D 1-1 ECQ
28-03-1973 Portugal H D 1-1 WCQ
08-05-1973 Cyprus.. H W 3-0 WCQ
26-09-1973 Bulgaria H D 0-0 WCQ
14-11-1973 Portugal A D 1-1 WCQ 1 goal
11-05-1974 Scotland H W 1-0 BC
15-05-1974 England. A L 0-1 BC
18-05-1974 Wales... A L 0-1 BC
04-09-1974 Norway.. A L 1-2 ECQ
30-10-1974 Sweden.. A W 2-0 ECQ
17-05-1975 England. H D 0-0 BC
20-05-1975 Scotland A L 0-3 BC

Summary: 19(1)/1. Won 5, Drew 5, Lost 10


Anonymous said…
I saw Liam make his debut for Derry City and in the short time he played with them he always looked too good to remain in the Irish League, when he broke into the Northern Ireland Team he looked like he belonged and was always a nailed on starter, he brought class to their defence and always battled for 90 minutes. Great Player.

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