Belfast Telegraph

Morocco? Northern Ireland might as well play Islandmagee

Ahead of Northern Ireland’s friendly with Morocco tomorrow night, Steven Beacom asked five former internationals about the game, David Healy, Nigel Worthington and Euro 2012 qualification

GLENN FERGUSON

Irish League legend, still playing at the age of 41. NI caps: 5

Is this game worthwhile or pointless?

It’s worthwhile for the young players simply because they will get a game and earn a cap. For the senior players you can tell by how many have withdrawn that they don’t think it is that worthwhile. They have a lot of big club games coming up and don’t want to take any unnecessary risk with their fitness.

I was a bit surprised that Linfield’s Robbie Garrett wasn’t called up because he’s been in great form. Alan Blayney is in there though from Linfield and it’s a big opportunity for him.

What do you make of the David Healy situation?

I’m disappointed Dave is not involved. And I know he will be gutted because he loves playing for Northern Ireland. I thought with Dave now doing well at Doncaster the match with Morocco would have been the ideal opportunity for him to score at international level again. With respect to Warren Feeney and Kyle Lafferty, at the end of the day we need Dave because he is still our most lethal marksman and our main goal threat.

How is Nigel Worthington doing?

In many ways Nigel is doing the same as other managers before him, getting good results against teams like Italy and then having terrible results against sides like the Faroe Islands. That draw was a disgrace. Players have to take their fair share of responsibility, but ultimately results come down to the manager.

Who are Northern Ireland’s key players?

Steve Davis is the top man. I think Grant McCann is a crucial player too along with Aaron Hughes and Maik Taylor. Chris Brunt is doing well at club level and can be a big player for us and don’t forget David Healy, he’s still vital.

Will Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2012 finals?

I don’t think so. If we have aspirations of reaching the finals we have to beat teams like the Faroes home and away. You can’t get away with drawing against them and come the end of the campaign, that could cost us.

MAL DONAGHY

Man United and Chelsea great, now IFA coach. NI caps: 91

Is this game worthwhile or pointless?

Friendlies have become laughable because for one reason or another there are so many withdrawals. It would be interesting to carry out a poll across all the countries detailing how many players who withdrew from this week’s internationals turned out for their clubs in their next game. I wouldn’t say this game is pointless though because it is an opportunity for young lads like Josh McQuoid, who I worked with at under-19 level. He has been banging the goals in for Bournemouth and will see this as his opportunity to show what he can do at this level.

What do you make of the David Healy situation?

It’s ironic that as soon as David is left out for Northern Ireland he’s banging goals in at club level. It’s no coincidence that he is now starting matches with Doncaster and scoring goals. When I was at United and playing reserve games it wasn’t the same as when I was playing week in, week out at Chelsea, so I can understand what David has been going through. Nigel has stated that the door is still open and hopefully David will return in the next squad and do what he does best, scoring goals for Northern Ireland.

How is Nigel Worthington doing?

It was disappointing to draw in the Faroe Islands after getting a great result against Italy, but that has always been the way with Northern Ireland. It’s a difficult job being Northern Ireland manager. Nigel is his own man, has picked his own staff and results have been inconsistent, but that’s what you get with Northern Ireland.

Who are Northern Ireland’s key players?

Aaron Hughes is a captain on the pitch who leads by example. He’s excellent for us. I like Steve Davis a lot and Chris Brunt is fantastic for WBA in the Premier League. I think we could get more from Brunty.

Will Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2012 finals?

It will be very difficult. Maybe we need to show a bit more adventure and go for it a bit more to give us a real chance.

TERRY COCHRANE

Former Glenavon boss, now coaching kids. NI caps: 26

Is this game worthwhile or pointless?

I think it is pointless. We have 10 players out and are trying kids against a team in Morocco who are hardly a big name. We might as well be playing Islandmagee. The IFA, in their wisdom, have opted for this game which says a lot about them. They don’t do themselves any favours, that’s for sure.

What do you make of the David Healy situation?

David is now at Doncaster Rovers on loan which will help him. They are a good footballing side, who will get the ball to his feet. He has gone through a bad patch but he will be okay. I don’t think he will be a world-beater again like he was a few years ago, but he has the ability to score goals in England when given the chance. I was surprised Nigel left him out of this game because it would have given David a boost to start again for Northern Ireland.

How is Nigel Worthington doing?

Nigel’s got his own methods. He has brought Englishmen in to coach alongside him which I don’t agree with. I’d prefer to see Northern Ireland coaches in there. He’s trying his best with the players available, gets men behind the ball and looks to counter attack. What’s tough for any manager is that Northern Ireland just aren’t producing enough players.

Who are Northern Ireland’s key players?

Steve Davis is the best player we have got. He’s very talented. I just wish we had more like him. Kyle Lafferty reminds me a bit of Billy Hamilton but overall we aren’t producing good enough players. Back in my day we had 14 players in the squad that were in the old First Division with Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United players making up the backbone of the side. I’d like to see a fresher approach to coaching in Northern Ireland which would bring more kids through.

Will Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2012 finals?

Hopefully, but it’s going to get tough in the remainder of the campaign. To have any chance we need all of our best players fit for every match.

GERRY ARMSTRONG

World Cup hero and Sky Sports pundit: NI caps 63

Is this game worthwhile or pointless?

From an experimental point of view it is worthwhile. I’m not sure Nigel will learn as much as he hoped because he has been forced into making so many changes, but he has to look at the positives and hope that one or two young lads show they have what it takes at this level.

I think it is going to be a big night for the goalkeepers Jonny Tuffey and Alan Blayney, who have a real chance to shine in Maik Taylor’s absence.

What do you make of the David Healy situation?

I can understand why Nigel has left David out because he hasn’t played much first team football in the last two years. I have a feeling as well that in dropping David he is sending out a message that nobody is safe. David has to play regular football and I’m pleased to see him doing that at Doncaster. Nobody will ever beat his goal record and I believe he will come back and add to that tally for Northern Ireland.

How is Nigel Worthington doing?

Nigel is doing well. He came close to guiding us to the World Cup finals. Up until we lost at home to Slovakia late in that campaign we were in with a real chance. In the Euro qualifiers we obviously stumbled with that draw against the Faroe Islands, but the other results against Slovenia and Italy were excellent. Nigel’s problem is that we lack top quality players, but he is doing a good job with what he’s got.

Who are Northern Ireland’s key players?

Steve Davis is the most consistent and reliable player we have. Kyle Lafferty has also impressed recently and before he got injured Niall McGinn was a crucial player for us. We shouldn’t forget Aaron Hughes either. He’s always impressive at the back. Another key player is Jonny Evans. I’d like to see Jonny get back to the form he’s capable of because I don’t feel he’s been at his best in the last six months.

Will Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2012 finals?

I’d love to say yes, But I don’t think we will make it. The draw with the Faroes will hurt us.

ALAN McDONALD

Windsor Park folk hero and ex-Glentoran boss. NI caps: 52

Is this game worthwhile or pointless?

From a club perspective managers wouldn’t be happy with a game like this taking place in the middle of the season, but from Nigel’s point of view it is another game to work with his players. Younger players will have a chance to gain international experience, so it has merit.

What do you make of the David Healy situation?

David has gone through an unsettling period after enjoying the most fabulous purple patch. The problem with David has been his lack of regular football, but now that he has moved to Doncaster hopefully he can gain momentum and match fitness. He remains an extremely talented footballer and is an efficient goalscorer who is massively important to us. I’m surprised he’s not involved in this game as it would give him more time on the pitch. Even 45 minutes or an hour would have been great for David as he hasn’t played too much over the past couple of years.

How is Nigel Worthington doing?

We made a reasonably good start to the campaign and but for the 1-1 draw with Faroe Islands, it would have been brilliant. When I was playing we didn’t perform when we red-hot favourites either, so nothing has changed. Under Nigel we came close in the last two campaigns and hopefully he will lead us all the way this time.

Who are Northern Ireland’s key players?

I like Steve Davis. He’s a superb player. Kyle Lafferty is another with ability but he has to show it more consistently. I still consider David Healy to be a big player for Northern Ireland and I believe Sammy Clingan can be influential for us. Then there is Aaron Hughes, a fabulous skipper.

Will Northern Ireland qualify for the Euro 2012 finals?

It’s going to be tough because there are strong teams in the group. We have to win our home games from here on in and pick up a few points away. We have a decent set of players and if we can get David Healy scoring again then qualifying is possible.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph