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Burton switch can help me flourish for Northern Ireland, insists Liam Boyce

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Liam Boyce believes his record-breaking move to Burton Albion will be a boost to his blossoming international career.

At Cliftonville, the 26-year-old was the best player in the Irish League, last season with Ross County he was the top league goalscorer in Scotland and now after a £500,000 transfer he intends to be a hit in England with Championship outfit Burton.

And he is confident that the switch - which led to Burton shelling out the biggest fee in their history - will benefit him as a player, helping Northern Ireland in the process.

Up until this month, Boyce had largely been a squad player for his country, but on the back of scoring 23 goals in Scotland's top flight, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill gave the Belfast man a rare start against New Zealand in a friendly. Boyce rewarded that faith with his first international goal and started again in the 1-0 World Cup qualifying win in Azerbaijan.

With Conor Washington, Josh Magennis, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ward all vying for places in attack, Boyce is determined to deliver at Burton to keep his spot in the Northern Ireland line-up.

"I'd been in Scotland for a few years and I wanted a new challenge. The Championship in England is a brilliant league and one of the toughest to be promoted from so it will definitely be a challenge," said Boyce.

"I felt I needed a change and I wanted to go to a higher level and see if I could do it on a consistent basis. I think the move can help me in international football because if I'm delivering in the Championship that will help my cause to start."

Boyce added that the last two internationals provided him with more confidence on and off the pitch as well as a feeling of belonging. Typically open and honest, he said: "Going into the games against New Zealand and Azerbaijan, because I had done so well at club level, everyone was congratulating me for being top scorer in Scotland. Michael (O'Neill) phoning me as well before that was great. All of it makes you feel like you are more part of the team.

"Before you would be thinking about the players you would be training with and be a bit shy. This time I was a little more confident and also scored my first international goal against New Zealand. Then we got the win over Azerbaijan and I got another start. I think it was the best international trip I've been on."

With Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs all interested, there have been suggestions in Scotland that the forward made his move on a money-based decision rather than a football one. The player himself rejects such claims.

"Talk of money is ridiculous. It's stupid," he stated. "I have worked hard, given my all to Ross County and then to hear people are saying I made the move to Burton just for money was pretty annoying.

"When I was playing for Cliftonville, I wasn't playing for money. It was because I loved it and I loved my time at Ross County too. Football has never been about making money for me."

• Conor McLaughlin has been released by Fleetwood Town and is attracting suitors from the Championship.

Defender Rory McArdle is also on the move having joined Scunthorpe United on a three-year deal from Bradford City.

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