I know there will be some people who will feel that the Northern Ireland players didn’t care about the result in Albania on Wednesday night.
Believe me though I was as frustrated as I have been after some defeats with World Cup points at stake.
And that’s because we produced yet another poor performance away from home.
We didn’t pass the ball well, didn’t defend well and we didn’t create any chances. It was a bad night. A very bad night.
The first-half in particular was dreadful from us. We did come into it a little bit after the break but not enough.
I could list a host of excuses such as why on earth we were playing in Albania in a friendly in the first place or that the pitch was poor, but that would cover up just how bad we were.
In five or 10 years no one will remember about the pitch, they will look at the 1-0 scoreline to Albania and say that was a terrible result for Northern Ireland — and they would be right. The bottom line is that we underperformed in all areas of the pitch.
I don’t really know what it is about friendlies or us playing on the road. We’re not too good at either. It’s just as well we have a brilliant record in competitive games at Windsor Park.
I was speaking to the former Northern Ireland defender John O’Neill, who was doing media work in Albania and he was saying that even when we were qualifying for the World Cup finals we hardly won any games away and didn’t do well in friendlies. Even so losing on Wednesday the way we did was not good enough.
I know our fans were upset, especially the 80 who travelled to Albania. They are entitled to criticise and they did. After the match one of our supporters shouted to the players that it was the worst he has seen from a Northern Ireland team.
That’s his opinion. Fair enough. He also said that we weren’t fit to wear the shirt which I thought was a bit over the top so I asked him to come and have a chat with me about it.
He had supported Northern Ireland for 60 years and was obviously angry with how things turned out in Tirana. I told him that the players are devoted to the country too and the easy op
tion for the boys would have been to have stayed at home and not travelled, but we were in Tirana trying to get a result.
The day after the game the same gentleman came to see me and apologised about what had been said. I know how passionate our fans are and have always said they are the best around. Yes, they will have been gutted by events in Albania but I’d ask them not to give up hope ahead of the European Championship qualifiers.
I’ve been in our team when we drew away to Malta and were hammered for it and then we beat England, so we CAN bounce back from a really poor result. That’s what we have to do now.