Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Feeney slams the critics

Shut it: Warren Feeney

Warren Feeney has blasted the critics who have blasted his Northern Ireland side.

Nigel Worthington’s outfit were stung by criticism from BBC pundits Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown on Saturday but they delivered the perfect response by stunning Poland 3-2.

Feeney was fuming when the commentators said Northern Ireland had insufficient quality in their team to win the game but the criticism inspired the players to win a crucial battle.

Northern Ireland now have a fighting chance of making the World Cup finals in South Africa next summer and victory at home to Slovenia tomorrow night would keep that dream alive and kicking.

Feeney, meanwhile, doesn’t care if his side are labelled whipping boys.

“We were laughing after the criticism,” he said. “They have their opinions but it’s not nice to hear because they always write us off.

“We always seem to come up with the right answer to that criticism. We were relaxing in our beds ahead of the game and instead of drifting off to sleep we had to listen to those comments and then you are ready to play the game there and then.

“It’s not nice to hear but those commentators will look at that result on Saturday and admit that they got it wrong.”



Game on: Feeney

Warren Feeney has laughed off criticism of the Northern Ireland team, saying “no-one likes us we don’t care”.

The players were fired up on Saturday by criticism from BBC pundits Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown but the striker says Nigel Worthington’s men will keep proving the doubters wrong.

Back to back wins over San Marino and a superb 3-2 win over Poland have catapulted Northern Ireland back into the race for World Cup qualification.

However, Feeney admits that many commentators will always view them as whipping boys.

“We were laughing after the criticism,” he said. “They have their opinions but it’s not nice to hear because they always write us off.

“We always seem to come up with the right answer to that criticism. We were relaxing in our beds ahead of the game and instead of drifting off to sleep we had to listen to those comments and then you are ready to play the game there and then.

“It’s not nice to hear but those commentators will look at that result on Saturday and admit that they got it wrong.

“That criticism does fire us up. We started the game superbly and carried it through to the last whistle.

“These pundits have their opinions but they need to worry about themselves really and let us go out and play. We did that and showed we are a good side.”

Worthington’s men now go into the second installment of a crucial double-header brimming with confidence.

And revenge will be on the midweek menu after Slovenia broke Northern Ireland hearts with two late strikes last October.

However, the hitman, on loan to Dundee United from Cardiff City, is predicting a happier outcome this time round.

“Definitely, we can beat Slovenia,” he said. “We showed out there we were by far the better side but the difference was that they took their chances and we didn’t.

“But after Saturday’s result we are full of confidence and we are looking forward to another must-win game.

“Everyone could see the momentum on Saturday which took us from the whistle right to the end. To concede two late goals against Slovenia was heartbreaking but we could take plus points from that performance. However, this will be a very different game as they are the away team.

“We showed on Saturday that we are capable of beating anyone.”

Feeney opened the scoring against Poland and he received a standing ovation from the Green and White Army after playing a key role in Saturday’s victory.

“The fans are outstanding and they showed again how they can get right behind the team,” he added. “It must be hard for opposing teams coming here as I think Poland were rattled.

“Artur Boruc came in for criticism but a few of the other players were rattled as well and if the fans can recreate that atmosphere tomorrow then we can put on another good show for them.

“It was pleasing for me to play and I was buzzing with the goal. I was a bit tired near the end but delighted to get on the scoresheet.”

Northern Ireland were able to exploit the uneven playing surface to ruthless effect but Feeney is unconcerned by the poor condition of the Windsor pitch.

“The pitch is not the best but that doesn’t worry me,” he added. “Both teams have to adapt to those conditions. Obviously it could be a bit better but it was fortunate when Maik (Taylor) struggled with a ball it went out for a corner but Boruc watched the ball go under his foot and into the net. But we needed the three points.”

The self-belief has never been stronger in the Northern Ireland camp but Feeney claims that that confidence existed ever since the first ball was kicked in anger.

“I don’t think the belief ever went away,” he said. “I don’t think we were playing badly when we lost those games. Nigel (Worthington) said we had dug in and although we were disappointed after the Slovakia game it is nice to be top of the group and I’d rather have the points on the board.

“A win over Slovenia would be another big confidence boost for us. We knew there was a lot of football to play and teams would hurt each other.

“I fancy San Marino to take points off a few teams.

“The belief is still strong and our destiny is in our own hands. We just have to keep playing like we did on Saturday.

“It would be great to play in a World Cup final and any footballer would want that on his CV but there is still a lot of work to be done. But if we keep working hard and enjoy a little luck, we can make it.

“These two games are must-win and we are half way there. Slovenia will be a hard game but we are capable of winning it.

“You would prefer to play against the big teams so they will be exciting games and the qualification race will go right to the wire.”

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