Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Morroco: Opportunity knocks and Tuffey is ready

By Graham Luney

Jonny Tuffey is ready to put his hands up and claim the number one jersey for Northern Ireland.

Maik Taylor isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet, but the 39-year-old knows he will have to start making retirement plans soon.

The Birmingham City stopper will miss tomorrow’s game against Morocco with a shoulder injury, presenting Tuffey and Linfield ‘keeper Alan Blayney with another golden chance to showcase their skills to international boss Nigel Worthington. Tuffey, who has made the step up from Partick Thistle in the Scottish First Division to top flight side Inverness, will win his sixth cap and he will rarely get a better opportunity to argue that Northern Ireland can remain in safe hands when Taylor steps aside.

“It’s unfortunate that Maik is injured, but it gives myself and Alan an opportunity to get some game time,” said the 23-year-old.

“We can hopefully stake a claim for a place in the team and show Nigel he has two good ‘keepers in Alan and myself who can be relied upon. We all want to gain as many caps as possible, learn and progress as much as we can.

“When you get a chance to perform you have to reach the standards expected of you.

“Maik’s age is well documented, but he is still in terrific condition and shape and he has shown that in his last few performances. He has produced key saves at key moments in a game, but we have to be knocking on the door and give Nigel something to think about as we want to fill the void left by Maik when that time comes.”

Even though 11 players have pulled out of the squad for the friendly, Tuffey has quickly rubbished any suggestions of a lack of commitment in the camp.

“No it definitely isn’t about that,” he added. “The boys are injured and I don’t think anyone has ever shirked their responsibility when it comes to playing for their country. Because we are such a small country, it is a really tight-knit group and the players love coming together to play matches and wear the shirt in front of fans.

“It’s unfortunate for the players who are missing out but the Champions League is just around the corner and players could benefit from a rest.”

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