Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Northern Ireland friendly could be perfect goodbye to Windsor Park

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Waiting game: artist's impression of the new-look Windsor
Waiting game: artist's impression of the new-look Windsor

Next month when England are playing Germany at Wembley and the World Cup play-offs are taking place, Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is hoping his side will be in action too. If not he'll be waiting until March at the earliest to work with his squad again.

The game O'Neill wants would be a friendly, possibly at Windsor Park.

It was thought the last international at the old Windsor had been and gone – that eventful 4-2 defeat against Portugal when Chris Brunt and Kyle Lafferty got themselves sent off and Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat-trick.

But with the builders not moving in until January to start re-development work on the new Windsor, a window of opportunity is open.

After the World Cup qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland fans may not have the stomach for another match this year, but with O'Neill keen to kick-off his preparations for Euro 2016, the IFA should press ahead.

And if it's at Windsor, I have a plan for the Association to help lift the mood. In the Belfast Telegraph last month we compiled a countdown of the top 50 Windsor moments as a farewell to the famous old ground. It was hugely popular with our readers, providing a host of glorious memories.

The IFA ought to do something similar and turn a meaningless friendly into a marvellous occasion.

Some of our greatest heroes should be invited to wave goodbye to a place in which they brought so much joy. Men like Harry Gregg, Gerry Armstrong, David Healy, Martin O'Neill, Pat Jennings, Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside. Seeing them on the Windsor turf again would give our fans something to smile about.

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