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Shiels ready to step up to plate for Northern Ireland

By Stuart McKinley

Dean Shiels last night declared that he is ready to spark Northern Ireland’s World Cup campaign.

The versatile Hibernian man may be just what manager Nigel Worthington needs going into Saturday night’s qualifier in Slovenia.

Sammy Clingan and Chris Brunt have withdrawn since the squad was named, while Damien Johnson is still working towards fitness after surgery.

With Shiels capable of operating anywhere across the midfield or in attack, he is a valuable weapon as Northern Ireland head to Maribor for a first ever meeting with Slovenia needing a victory.

“I haven’t really thought too much about the players who are out injured and whether that may give me a chance or not,” said Shiels.

“The team selection is up to the manager, but I am ready and willing if called upon.“

Despite the squad being short of another regular starter in the shape of Stephen Craigan, Shiels isn’t at all concerned that Worthington’s options have been weakened.

“Everyone who is in the squad deserves to be in,” he said.

“We will miss the players who are out, but not too much. Stephen Craigan has been excellent for us, but when you look at the defence there is a lot of quality in there and there are plenty of options.”

After having to be patient for over a year, Shiels finally won a call-up under Worthington for the August friendly against Scotland and he has appeared as a substitute in all three games since then.

He has yet to start a competitive game though and patience remains his buzzword.

“I am pleased that I have made some progress and everyone has to start somewhere,” said Shiels.

“I am like everyone else though, I want to be starting games and it is up to me to impress the manager and earn my chance. He knows that I am versatile, I have played on the right and the left in the last two games and I was happy with my performances.”

Belfast Telegraph


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