Stephen Craigan will wear the captain’s armband against Montenegro tonight but he is more interested in hailing his central-defensive partner Jonny Evans.
The Manchester United starlet is carving out an exceptional career at Old Trafford and when he turns up for training with Northern Ireland, Craigan is dazzled by the 22-year-old’s classy touch.
Evans will be at the heart of the Northern Ireland defence at the Podgorica Stadium while Aaron Hughes rests at Fulham but Craigan couldn’t wish for a better comrade.
“You just watch Jonny in training, he’s so relaxed and for me, it looks as though everything is off the cuff and it looks so natural,” said Craigan. “I see some of the things he does and if some of our boys were to try them they would probably do cruciate ligaments.
“With his passing and his touch I really do think he could play anywhere. He is just so comfortable and you can see the difference of where he is at in his club football and where the likes of myself am. People speak about him learning but I learn off him. He is phenomenal, a top, top player.
“I think he has grown in stature; he is more confident and playing in the Manchester United first team he knows what is he is doing, he’s comfortable and is top notch.”
Craigan says he’s thrilled to don the armband and lead by example but he has total faith in the team’s elder statesmen and young emerging talent.
“I’m the fortunate one, it really could be one of many but we know Aaron is the captain of the team and if somebody gets the chance to fill in for him then fine,” said the Motherwell defender.
“It is nice to be given a little bit of responsibility but I don’t think I can give too much guidance to Steven Davis, Jonny Evans and players like that.
“All personalities are different, some thrive on the captaincy, and some don’t. You just take it with a pinch of salt and get on with it.”