Belfast Telegraph

Serbia v Northern Ireland: The quiet life suits McCann

By Graham Luney

Grant McCann believes Northern Ireland fans will have something to shout about in the surreal atmosphere of the FK Crvena Zvezda Stadium in Belgrade on Friday night.

Only 265 visiting fans will be able to watch the game in the stadium amid very tight security after Uefa ordered the match to kick-off behind closed doors.

The football body got tough on Serbia after hooligans rioted in Italy last October.

It will be an eerie atmosphere but there is no escaping the importance of the game as Northern Ireland continue their Euro 2012 Group C qualifying campaign.

The Peterborough United midfielder hopes to win his 32nd cap in Belgrade as Nigel Worthington’s side go into a crucial double-header with Slovenia visiting Windsor Park the following Tuesday.

“It is going to be a very surreal atmosphere for all the players and management but I think it can work in our favour,” said the 30-year-old.

“Serbia are always going to be difficult to beat away from home but we should feel less fear and intimidation if their vocal home support is not there.

“If there was a crowd of 30,000 or 40,000 there it would be a very different game for us and we would have to silence the crowd as well as get on top in the game. But we will certainly hear the 240 Northern Ireland fans and no doubt they will be cheering us on throughout the game.

“I think it’s great that our supporters are being allowed in because they have done nothing wrong. It will be great to have them cheering us on.

“We need to get as many points as we can from these two games and no doubt Nigel will remind us of how important these matches are.”

McCann, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, joked: “Perhaps it’s not a good thing that we will be able to hear the instructions from the bench with no fans around!”

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