Ironically earning several of his 30 Irish caps while a regular in City’s reserves, Willie had learned his football in Scotland, and had already won international recognition for his stylish defensvie play with St. Mirren wehn City laid out £4.750 for him.
He settled well initially, shutting between the two full back berths, but ws then squeezed out by the Stan Milburn / John Ogilvie partnership whech saw City rhough the 1957 promotion year.
He returned for three season of First Division battling but, again ironically only ever played twice for City in the centre half position he held for Northern Ireland trhoughout the 1958 World Cup. The eventual move to Dunfirmline worked well for Willie, he playd in the 1961 Scottish Cup victory and was manager when the Pars returned ot Hampden in 1965, having had a spell coaching under Jock Stein in the interim. He sold Jackie Sinclair to Leicester before moving on for further spells of management at Falkirk and St. Mirren, and in 1971 turned down the Scottish FA’s offer of the national team manager’s post.
At his time at Leicester he held the record of appareances by an international as 23 of a total of 30 caps were played while at Filbert Street. He was according to notes the first ever Leicester player to appear in a World Cup tournament, being part of the Northern Ireland 1958 World Cup squad playing all games. First a 4-0 defeat vs. France, then a strong 2-2 draw vs. West Germany, continued with a massive 1-0 win vs. Czechoslovakia, and later a new win vs. Czechoslovakia and finally losing 3-1 vs. Argentina.
Willie Cunningham was also seen as influential in the career of Sir Alex Ferguson having been his manager at Dunfirmline and also bringing him to Falkirk. Cunningham later made Sir Alex his assistent and when moving on at Falkirk recomended him to apply for the manager position. Sir Alex got the job and at the age of 31 this became his first taste of management. In 2007 Sir Alex attended his funeral, Willie Cunningham died at the age of 77.