Northern Ireland centre-forward Willie Irvine was one of Brighton’s star strikers in the 1970s. He joined on loan from Preston in March 1971 and his six goals in fourteen League games helped to rescue the Albion from a Third Division relegation battle that season.
From Goal! Magazine:
Looking after her husband, Brighton Irish (sic) international Willie, and sons Darren (5) and Stephen (2) keeps Rita Irvine busy. But she still finds time for dressmaking, attending evening classes for flower arrangements and watching Brighton play.
A less rosy, but eventually happy, picture is painted in Willie Irvine’s autobiography, ”Together Again’:
The offer of a three-month loan to Brighton was made and Rita and I looked at each other. Against it was the fact that a move from Preston to Brighton would be 200 miles or thereabouts further than a move from Burnley to Preston. It seemed a huge distance for Burnley girl Rita, who would be leaving the closeness of family and relatives. The four of us – by now we’d had our second son – would be well and truly on our own. There’d be no bus rides home for the day like she could do from Preston to Burnley.
The club had promised to organise a rented property for us, a lovely flat in Shoreham-By-Sea. We kept the house in Preston for when we went back. The problems of being a football wife hit Rita hard. Strange place, strange flat, me away frequently. In the first week one of the boys took very ill while I was away for three days. All Rita could do, young, panic-stricken and frightened, was knock on the flat below and ask for help. She knew no one but the woman she begged for help, a total stranger, turned out to be a real saviour and called her own doctor who came every day for the next week. They became the best of friends and bit by bit we got to know other players and their wives. Only a footballer knows what the wife goes through at times like this. They are a special breed. Some are strong and can handle it. Others don’t. Rita might have had floods of tears on several occasions and suffered from my moods, but she coped, stuck it out and adapted every time we moved.