Belfast Telegraph

Slovenia v Northern Ireland: Now I know how David Healy feels, says Sammy Clingan

By Graham Luney

Sammy Clingan says he’s beginning to feel David Healy’s pain.

Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer is frozen out of the first team picture at Sunderland and a move failed to materialise before the transfer window slammed shut.

Ahead of the opening Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovenia in Maribor tomorrow night, the once unplayable Killyleagh man is short of match fitness and confidence.

However, Clingan is also suffering from a dose of the football blues after being confined to the bench at Coventry City this season.

It is the first time the Belfast man has felt out in the cold in his career but there is a spring in his step in Maribor as he’s likely to run out at the Ljudski Vrt Stadium.

“I missed the first three games of the season, I was on the bench and it came as a big shock to me because anywhere I have been I haven’t been on the bench but these things happen and make you a stronger player,” said the midfielder (pictured).

“It’s not about me, football is a team game and once I’m called upon I have to be ready.

“I can’t sit and sulk if I’m not in the team because it’s not fair on other players.

“I can understand David’s (Healy) frustration. It’s what you are paid to do and what you train for — to play games on a Saturday.

“It’s not nice to sit on the bench and I’m witnessing it for the first time in my career this season. I came back in against Millwall and hopefully I can keep my place.

“When the new manager (Aidy Boothroyd) didn’t start me, it was hard to accept.

“But I’ll not be a selfish person. That is not me. I think I am a good professional and I’ll support the players who are in the starting eleven.”

Clingan will get game time tomorrow night when he kicks off another qualifying campaign but he is still haunted by the Iceland debacle when Northern Ireland made a shocking start to the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

“I’ve been involved in two campaigns and we have not started well,” added the 26-year-old.

“The Iceland game at Windsor Park when we lost 3-0 springs to mind. It was my first game in a qualifier and hopefully that doesn’t happen again.

“It was definitely a bad memory for me. (Eidur) Gudjohnsen played very well that day. It was good for me to be involved in qualifiers and I was a young player learning the game. Whenever you get beat you have to take the positives out of games.

“On a more optimistic note, we have come close a few times, hopefully we can go one step closer and qualify this time.”

Northern Ireland’s goal drought stands at seven games and Clingan is desperate to boot that gloomy statistic into touch.

“The stats are always there but we just have to look at things positively,” he said.

“This is a new campaign and a new start and we want to get off to a good start.

“Scoring more goals is something I am working on, definitely. I wasn’t a renowned goalscorer at Nottingham Forest or at previous clubs but I scored six for Norwich and five last year for Coventry, with most of them set-pieces. I would really like to chip in with more goals.

“There is goals in our strikers. We have David and Kyle (Lafferty) while Rory Patterson is scoring. Martin Paterson is another goalscorer and we just have to create the chances for them to put away.”

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