Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Spain won't be a Sproule in the park

Speed machine Ivan Sproule believes playing against mighty Spain tomorrow night will be ample reward for all the hard work he's put in to make it as a professional footballer.

Sproule is expected to get the nod to replace the suspended Keith Gillespie in Las Palmas.

And the former Omagh Town and Institute ace is relishing the prospect of playing against some of the best players in the world.

Spain, after Saturday's convincing win victory over Sweden, have already qualified for next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland but Sproule concedes that will not make the task in hand any easier.

" Even though they've qualified we realise it's going to be the toughest game of the campaign because we don't just expect Spain to qualify - we expect them to go on and win the actual competition," he said.

"They are one of the favourites with world class players through their squad, so that's the type of task we are facing.

"But when you're a professional footballer, work hard throughout your club career and then come away for 10 days with the international team this is the reward you get - playing in huge games like this.

"I'm excited to be playing against these super players. You watch them every week playing in the Premier League or La Liga and see some of the amazing things they do. They are the cream of the crop. They are not just the best players in Europe, they have some of the best players in the world.

"But we've got a couple of our own superstars in our own side - most notably one David Healy - so I'm sure they will not be having it all their own way. When we've got him in the team, we've always got a chance."

Sproule has only made a handful of starts for his country - largely down to Gillespie.

But he certainly isn't complaining and actually concedes Gillespie, who shares the same birthdate - February 18 - is his inspiration.

Sproule said: "It was nice to play against Sweden and I thought I did reasonably well.

"The manager told me he was pleased with my performance.

"But really, I expected to be dropped for the game against Denmark because Keith had a great campaign and deserves his starting place.

"He's a great player and a great servant for his country. I take inspiration from him when I play for Northern Ireland.

" Hopefully it's my time now and I can put in a big performance."

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