Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's Stephen Craigan calls for winning start in Euro 2012 campaign

Stephen Craigan believes it is essential Northern Ireland get off to the best possible start in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Craigan, set to win his 50th cap on Friday against Slovenia in Maribor, is dismayed at the team's slow starts.

However he knows the hosts, who defeated them 2-0 at the same venue two years ago on the way to reaching the World Cup finals, will again provide tough opposition.

Craigan said: "We have started the last few campaigns badly but seem to gather momentum halfway through.

"But if we could begin well and carry it on, we would give ourselves a better chance.

"It is tough as Slovenia will be buoyed by qualifying for the World Cup and will have momentum when we play them.

"They are a slick side and for us to get result we need 11 men and the substitutes doing well and be on the ball."

Worthington has included rookies like Johnny Gorman, who combines playing for Wolves Academy side by attending Repton School, and Manchester United midfielder Corry Evans in his squad. Italy, Serbia, Estonia and the Faroe Islands make up the group.

Craigan is pleased to see the youngsters being given a chance.

"We have always had two or three young players coming through every year, " he said.

"In our country's situation you should get them in to train with the senior squad to see if they can handle it.

"Johnny Gorman has shown he can, he looks as though he has been there all his days. It is important to get them in to give them a proper chance.

"The manager (Nigel Worthington) is here to win games though. There is no point bringing in six under-21s and losing every game but he will know when the time is right."

Qualifying matches will now be played on Fridays and Tuesdays and Craigan added: "It is a sensible move.

"It gives players a little bit more of opportunity to recover from games and maybe some who would have pulled out before will come along."

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