As one England career comes to an end, a new Northern Ireland one is up and running.
Manchester United starlet Olly Norwood — dubbed the ‘new Becks’ — made his bow on the senior international stage in Montenegro on Wednesday.
If the 19-year-old’s career follows the same path as David Beckham’s, Northern Ireland fans have every reason to be excited about the future.
Burnley-born Norwood featured for England youth teams but he didn’t enjoy the experience and when it was discovered that one of his grandparents hails from Northern Ireland, it was time to extend an invitation.
The teenage sensation has shone for the Under-21 side and like Beckham, his dead ball accuracy and lethal shot strikes fear in opponents.
It was a harsh introduction to the big time for Norwood, who replaced Sammy Clingan in the 65th minute in Podgorica, as the 2-0 defeat made his debut a bitter-sweet moment.
Like his attacking comrades, he failed to penetrate the Montenegro defence but he will reflect on the experience with some satisfaction.
“Yes, it was a night of mixed emotions,” he said. “It was disappointing to lose the game but it is always a proud moment making your international debut.
“I really enjoyed the experience despite the result and hopefully I can get a few more caps. It was very hot and humid but it had been like that all week.
“It was not so difficult when I came on as the game was slower and it was easier to get on the ball.
“I should have done better with a shot near the end, but I got the feeling nothing would go our way.
“We have the players who can attack and score goals but it was one of those nights when nothing went for us. We did not defend that badly, we just didn’t hurt them. They took their two chances but I don’t think Maik (Taylor) had a shot to save.”
Norwood now hopes to break into the squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers and his tough baptism in Montenegro should speed along his development.
“The aim will be to win in Slovenia and get off to a good start,” he added. “But we know we have to improve. We definitely have to pass the ball better.”
Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington said: “I first worked with Olly three years ago.
“He’s a dead-ball specialist, very good.
“But I have told him no end of times he has got to work on the other side of his game box to box, similar to the likes of (Paul) Scholes, the likes of (Ryan) Giggs because he is at a fantastic club.
“Top quality players work hard and have wonderful ability with the ball.”