Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

David Healy: Beating Slovenia as good as beating Spain

After beating Poland last weekend all the players were determined not to spoil our good work against Slovenia.

We weren’t at our best, but don’t they say that it is a sign of a decent side when you win having not played well?

What got us through against Slovenia was the spirit in the camp, the togetherness and, of course, our magnificent fans.

I thought a lot of the Northern Ireland supporters came in for stick that they didn’t deserve in the aftermath of our victory over Poland.

From what people were telling me some Polish fans had come intent on causing trouble last weekend and it certainly took the gloss away from what was a brilliant victory over the Poles.

It also took the gloss away from the incredible support we received inside the ground, bar the assistant referee getting hit by a coin.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Green and White Army for what they helped us achieve in the latest World Cup double header.

Beating Slovenia after the win over Poland has put us in a great position.

We are top of our World Cup group and intend staying there.

With the players in our squad there is no reason why we can’t.

I love the atmosphere in the Northern Ireland camp. We enjoy each other’s company and as people at home would say the craic is always good.

That spirit drives you on as it did on Wednesday.

I’ve been fortunate to play in a lot of big games for Northern Ireland and enjoy a lot of big victories.

It’s hard to beat the England game for what it did for the country, but I would say that our victory over Slovenia was as big as the memorable win over Spain back in 2006.

I know Spain are a much more glamourous side and have a host of household names, but in the context of where it could take us the success against Slovenia was up there.

It wasn’t a classic encounter by any means. It was a very physical match and they made it really difficult for us, but we rallied round and Warren Feeney came up with a magic moment to win the match.

We have now won our last four competitive games which I believe is a Northern Ireland record.

Now we must try and make it five, six and even seven in a row when we take on Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in our remaining qualifiers.

I haven’t sat down and worked out what we need in terms of points to reach the finals in South Africa because you can’t legislate for what will happen in the other games.

For instance, I would never have thought that the Czech Republic would lose at home to Slovakia while we were beating the Slovenians.

I’ll tell you this though, I won’t be pinning my hopes on San Marino doing us any favours.

Ultimately all we can do is look after ourselves and if we were to win our remaining matches I would be very confident about us qualifying.

At Windsor Park we can beat anyone and I’m sure Slovakia won’t fancy coming to our place one little bit.

Our other games are away and it really is time to sort out our form on the road in the matches against Poland and the Czech Republic.

I felt we should have got something out of our games in Slovenia and Slovakia but we have more than made up for that since then.

And now we are close to achieving our dream.

I watched a documentary on Pat Jennings during the week and when the show looked back on Northern Ireland in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

We want to be there in 2010. I believe we can be.

Evans is up there with Whiteside

As a nation we have not been blessed with too many world class players over the years.

George Best is the obvious one that stands out.

I’d say the last one that we had was probably Norman Whiteside.

There is now a new world class kid in town. You’ll know him as Jonny Evans.

Every time I play or train with Jonny I am more impressed by him. It doesn’t seem to matter if he plays at left back, right back or in central defence, he delivers. Just think how good he is going to be in a couple of years.

I also must pay tribute to Warren Feeney, who in the past I know has been disappointed that he has not played more for Northern Ireland.

He certainly made up for that against Poland and Slovenia by scoring crucial goals.

He has always produced great work-rate

and hunger but perhaps didn’t get the credit for that when all the plaudits were going to me for banging in a lot of goals.

Now he is scoring and quite rightly he is hitting the headlines.

I do enjoy playing alongside Warren. We’ve been together for some really important wins

As for myself, I didn’t have my best games in the last week, but I did work as hard as I could. I would love to have scored, although as I’ve always said if we are winning and I don’t score, I’m more than happy.

In the Euro 2008 campaign, everything I hit went into the net. Hopefully this time I’m saving the goals for the last three games.

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Alan Shearer is a very good appointment as Newcastle manager. The north-east is buzzing with the amazing news.

If he keeps them up he will be an even bigger hero to the Toon Army than he is now and if Newcastle go down, it will be said he stepped in too late.

From a Sunderland point of view, we have to look after ourselves and stay in the Premier League. If that happens to be at the expense of Newcastle, so be it.

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