Alan Mannus is planning to keep the pressure on Maik Taylor and Jonny Tuffey in the fight for the Northern Ireland number one jersey — even though he won’t play another competitive game for three months.
Mannus is now with Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland after deciding to leave Linfield when his contract expired last summer.
The Dublin giants played their final game of the season last Friday night, finishing second in the title race behind Bohemians, and the league doesn’t resume until March, by which time Northern Ireland will have played two more matches.
Taylor may be regularly warming the bench for Birmingham City, with Tuffey in the Scottish First Division, plying his trade at Partick Thistle, but they will both be in training every day, putting Mannus at a disadvantage.
The 27-year-old doesn’t see that as a problem.
“If there is another friendly game in March then I will be ready,” said Mannus. We start pre-season training at Shamrock Rovers in January and we’ll have a few pre-season games as well.
“’I'll be training on my own before we start back in the New Year as well, so if there is a game and I am involved, which I hope I am, then I don’t have any concerns that I won’t have been playing matches.”
Mannus is hoping to add to his four Northern Ireland caps when Serbia begin their preparations for next summer’s World Cup finals at Windsor Park on Saturday evening.
And after that it will be a well- earned break for the Canadian-born goalkeeper.
“I will take a couple of weeks away from football,” said Mannus. I haven’t really stopped training since the beginning of last season with Linfield, which is nearly a year and a half ago now.
“We had the friendly in Italy at the end of the season, so I kept training in preparation for that and I am grateful to Alan Simpson for helping me in that.
“I’d only a week or so off after that before getting back into training because I was trying to get myself a club and needed to be ready for the trials that I had.
“Then I signed for Shamrock Rovers and we’ve been training three or four times a week and playing a match as well, so I’ve been busy.”
Taylor remains Northern Ireland’s undisputed number one, despite celebrating his 38th birthday a couple of months ago.
The other two are left to fight it out for a place on the bench and it is Tuffey who has now edged ahead of Mannus in the reckoning.
While Mannus doesn’t have to worry about club football for a while, Tuffey has put his country first this weekend, running the risk of losing his place in the Partick side by missing their Scottish First Division meeting with Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday afternoon.
Tuffey was due to have faced Andy Kirk in that game, but the former Glentoran striker is now back in the international reckoning after four years in exile and is looking to take his caps total to double figures — nine years after making his debut.
“It was great to get the call and be back involved against the Czech Republic,” said Kirk, who has scored seven times this season.
“I know a lot of the boys from previous trips, but it has been three years since I have been involved.
“I went away and worked hard and gave a good account of myself. I got rewarded with the last 12 minutes of the game.
“At the end of the day it’s your club form that gets you picked. I just want to keep scoring goals for Dunfermline.”
All 19 players reported fit and trained at the squad’s Co Antrim base yesterday and Worthington will give as many as possible game time on Saturday.