Serbia v Northern Ireland: Taylor-made chance for Camp
A new chapter is set to begin in the career of goalkeeper Lee Camp tomorrow and he intends to make it a long and glorious one.
Footballers rarely get these golden opportunities in their career, so the Derby-born shot-stopper plans to seize it with both hands.
The Nottingham Forest goalkeeper has been handed a ticket to the big time by Maik Taylor’s withdrawal from the Northern Ireland squad because of a shoulder injury.
He is set to make his senior international debut in a vital Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade.
Camp may have represented England Under-21s in the past but he’s more excited about what the future holds for him with Northern Ireland.
As magnificent and loyal a servant Taylor has been to the cause while amassing an incredible 87 caps, this new kid on the block says he’s ready to be number one in the future.
The 26-year-old is raring to go, batting off questions from the press in a cool and composed manner, underlining his determination to take everything in his stride.
Big game mentality? He is adamant he won’t let boss Nigel Worthington or the Northern Ireland supporters down.
With Slovenia the guests at Windsor Park on Tuesday, these are critical moments in the race for the Euro 2012 finals, but Camp has been in superb form for Nottingham Forest and the international stage does not frighten him.
“I’ve come here to play and give my all, I’m 100% committed to that,” said Camp, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his Newtownards-born grandfather.
He added: “I’m a passionate player. I wear my heart on my sleeve when I play and I like winning and hate losing.
“I could have easily sat back and had an easy career but I want this opportunity.
“Maik’s misfortune is obviously my gain and I wish him all the best. Hopefully he gets over his injury sooner rather than later. You wait for opportunities and this one has come quicker than I could have imagined.
“It’s up to me to prove why the manager has put me in the squad and it’s a great chance to grab the shirt and keep it. I think competition for places helps at any level of the game. Sometimes you need to be patient but now I have an opportunity to stake a claim. I’ve made no bones about it — I haven’t come here to sit about and be a bit-part player.
“I want to get the shirt and make it my own. That’s my aim.
“I want to play and be the best that I can be. I can only perform well and catch the manager’s eye.
“I have to fight my corner and give myself the best possible chance to stay in the team.”
The last time Taylor failed to play in a competitive fixture for Northern Ireland was against Austria in October, 2004, a game that finished 3-3.
The 3-2 win over Spain in September, 2006, was the last time the Birmingham City stopper failed to start a competitive fixture for Northern Ireland. In that memorable game Taylor replaced Roy Carroll after 12 minutes.
Camp can expect to have a busy night against Serbia in an eerie atmosphere in Belgrade, as only 240 Northern Ireland fans are allowed into the stadium.
However, he can count on an experienced backline in front of him, superbly marshalled by Fulham’s dependable Aaron Hughes.
Jonny Evans, Stephen Craigan and Gareth McAuley also have the tools to thwart Serbia.
“I’ve sampled international football before but at senior level that experience is more important,” added Camp.
“It’s a very good standard but I have good experience and I’ve been around the block long enough to know what I can do well.
“I’ve played in play-off games but the international stage adds a lot more to it.
“I just have to go out with the same mentality I have on a Saturday afternoon with Nottingham Forest as my performances have got me in the squad.
“It’s not a case of doing something different. I’ll go about the job as I usually do. I’ll play to my strengths and keep away from my weaknesses.
“The boys have welcomed me into the squad and there are enough characters there to keep a good team spirit. I’ve really enjoyed it.”