Belfast Telegraph

Judge Northern Ireland in qualifiers, says Magilton

Northern Ireland’s under-performing stars have been defended from criticism after the dismal defeat to Albania.

Jim Magilton was in the team when Northern Ireland last visited the European backwater in the early 1990s and as far as he is concerned the time for judgement will come when the European Championship qualifying campaign kicks-off in September.

And by that time he sees two of Nigel Worthington’s shining starlets making progress towards a regular place in the senior squad.

There were brickbats from all directions after the 1-0 loss in Tirana and Magilton claims that players have to accept such barbs once they pull on the international shirt.

“Criticism is part of the job. I think the players understand that,” he said.

“We haven’t won a friendly international in I don’t know how long and you expect to get criticised.

“It was a game that wasn’t a great occasion. It’s another international, but it’s not the most appetising of games I would suggest.

“I did play in Albania myself the last time Northern Ireland were there. I didn’t fancy going back, but I believe it’s like Monte Carlo compared to what it was when we were there.

“It was a horrendous experience and a really humbling experience.

“These games come and you’ve still got to be professional. If one or two let themselves down then you’d like to think there will be an opportunity for them to redeem themselves.

“The bottom line, however, is qualification for the European finals .

“Nobody likes to play badly, nobody likes to lose and nobody likes to get criticised for how they have played, but I think the time to react is after when it really matters.”

Corry Evans’ performance was the one positive that was there to be clung to, as he impressed in the second-half. His Manchester United colleague Oliver Norwood is another 52 times capped Magilton sees as a bright prospect.

“In Norwood and Corry Evans — who I have seen since he was a boy, I think he is a really good lad and a really good player — I think there is an opportunity for those two to really emerge,” he said.

“I have seen the under-16s and the under-17s and there are players there who are going to give Northern Ireland the opportunity of a really promising future.”

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