In my time as a Northern Ireland player I can’t remember us winning too many matches 3-0 away from home, so our victory over San Marino can be considered a good result. To be honest though it was nothing more than we expected.
It was a decent professional job and from the moment big Gareth McAuley scored early on the points were never in doubt.
Getting that early goal was what the manager Nigel Worthington was looking for and thankfully we delivered.
Having opened the scoring after just six minutes, I’m sure a few of our fans were thinking we would score loads, but 3-0 will do.
I would love to have hit the net to keep improving on the scoring record, but it wasn’t to be. As I’ve often said though as long as the team wins I’m happy.
I would have swapped the 13 goals I scored in the Euro qualifiers to reach the finals, and if I don’t score again in our group and we make it to the World Cup in South Africa I’ll be overjoyed.
It’s good for the team that boys like Gareth and Chris Brunt got their first goals for Northern Ireland against San Marino, as it will give them confidence, and I was really pleased to see Grant McCann hit a cracker. He had a super game as did Damien Johnson.
I guess the only disappointment of the night, and I admit it was a big one, was seeing three of the lads pick up bookings, meaning they will be suspended for next month’s clash at home to Poland.
I thought George McCartney was very unlucky to get a yellow card. The San Marino player was rolling about like crazy after he and George tangled, yet to me there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him. It’s a real blow to be without George for Poland.
I would say the same about Steve Davis and Kyle Lafferty, who are also suspended, after getting booked for mistimed tackles. I know our fans felt a bit deflated with the bookings, but there are upsides such as hopefully having Sammy Clingan and Jonny Evans back from injury.
I’m sure Jonny could slot in for George at left-back while Sammy can operate in central midfield like Steve and we have enough goals up front, which can hopefully make up for Kyle’s absence.
It was a strange match to play in at times because they were fouling so much. There were lots of naughty tackles going in from their players all over the pitch and I got one really bad whack myself which frustrated me.
You have to expect that though because in truth they have nothing else.
We’re all aware that our next game at home to Poland will be a lot tougher, but we should go into that match with self belief. After all, we are pretty good at Windsor, aren’t we? I know they won on their last visit, but I doubt they will relish coming to Belfast.
If we beat them in March, we really are in the thick of the qualifying mix.
It will be tough without the three suspended lads but there is no doubt we can do it.
I always put heart and sole into it
You may have noticed that I threw my boots into the crowd after the game.
It was no big deal, I just felt a little bit frustrated that I hadn’t scored and thought they might provide a nice memento for our fans, who were brilliant to me all night, singing my name and I really appreciated that.
I think the boots got split up when I threw them in. Hopefully they have gone to good homes. I scored in my last two matches for Sunderland in them and also against San Marino at Windsor, so they were good for me.
They are elsewhere now though maybe in the future, I’ll see them again if those who caught the boots ask me to sign them at a future Northern Ireland game.
Hiddink’s timing will prove to be just perfect
I’ve been saying for a while in this column that something wasn’t quite right at Chelsea.
Results have been poor and little bits of gossip about players supposedly being unhappy have been coming out — which certainly wasn’t the case when Chelsea were winning trophies under Jose Mourinho.
Clearly owner Roman Abramovich thinks this is down to the manager and Luiz Felipe Scolari has paid the price.
You would have thought that a World Cup winner would have been a hit at the Bridge, but obviously not.
I have to say the appointment of Guus Hiddink is a really intriguing one to me. He’s there until the end of the season at least which means for the next few months he will be combining his job as the Russia boss with the Chelsea post.
Will it work?
For most people I would say it would be impossible, but Hiddink (left) is not your run of the mill manager.
He’s a high class operator.
He did a fantastic job when in charge of PSV Eindhoven and has been a big success in international football managing Holland, South Korea, Australia and now Russia.
For me his finest achievement was guiding South Korea to the semi-finals of the World Cup back in 2002.
He has always struck me as a master of timing.
He certainly knows when to go for a new job.
Personally I think even though Chelsea have been struggling recently, it is the perfect time for Hiddink to assume a fresh role once again.
If he gets a few wins under his belt and gets the spirit in the dressing room going, Chelsea could yet end the season with silverware and how good is he going to look then?
Chelsea play Watford in the FA Cup this weekend. It is a potential banana skin, but they won’t slip up.
The arrival of Hiddink will see to that.