Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Clingan ready for N.Ireland return

Sammy Clingan is back in contention for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Israel

Northern Ireland midfielder Sammy Clingan was sleeping in his mother's spare room and training in a local park a couple of months ago but now he is back at the heart of his side's World Cup qualifying campaign.

Clingan left Coventry, where he was club captain, at the end of last season, and found himself without work after rejecting interest from a handful of suitors. A brief spell at Doncaster did not work out, but he signed for Kilmarnock in January and, after being watched three times by national boss Michael O'Neill, is back in contention for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Israel.

Reflecting on his stop-start season, he said: "I've been back in Belfast for most of the time. I didn't want to be in England doing nothing so I spent time staying in Mum's house and doing my own personal training. I was training in Falls Park, just on the doorstep and running round it every day."

It was something of a comedown for the 29-year-old, who skippered Northern Ireland for the first time against a star-studded Holland side last summer.

He added: "It was a bit crazy but that's football these days and there are footballers who are out of contract. I did turn offers down from clubs and I probably should have signed those deals but I am just pleased (Kilmarnock boss) Kenny Shiels has given me the chance.

"He phoned me when I was back in Belfast, I was at the driving range and got a call from someone I didn't know. I went over and then the club was sold to me."

Clingan and the rest of the Northern Ireland contingent have endured a frustrating week so far, with the first match of their scheduled double header, against Russia, twice called off due to snow.

Israel, meanwhile, played out a dramatic 3-3 draw with Portugal and Clingan hopes his side's lack of activity could have a silver lining.

"You know how it is when you are stuck in a hotel for so long, but it could work to our benefit," he said. "Israel have played Portugal but we are fresh and that's really helped. Hopefully we can build on that with three points tomorrow."

O'Neill on Sunday lost versatile Rangers player Andy Little to a knee injury and added Hull midfielder Corry Evans to the group. He will now compete with Clingan and Alex Bruce for the holding role, made available due to Chris Baird's suspension.

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