I can be our new David Healy, says Martin Paterson
Published 26/03/2013 | 08:00
Martin Paterson has pushed his claims to be replace David Healy as Northern Ireland's number one striker.
Healy, Northern Ireland's record goalscorer, netted a last gasp, face-saving equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan last November, but he no longer commands a starting place.
And 25-year-old Paterson wants manager Michael O'Neill to hand him the responsibility of scoring the goals that will bring down Israel in tomorrow night's World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park as Northern Ireland go looking for a first win in 19 months.
A thaw means the game should go ahead. The Burnley striker has ended a six-month self-imposed international exile after putting his injury nightmare behind him and is now hungrier than ever to deliver on the big stage.
"I'm fully fit, no excuses and ready to go," said Paterson (below). "I would love to be the new David Healy. I always say that if I do get chances to play up the middle I will score goals.
"To take over David Healy's mantle, to step into his shoes is very difficult, but it's something I would love to do and will work very hard to do.
"I think there are always goals for me, it's up to me if I take them."
Paterson scored his first goal for Northern Ireland when he netted from the penalty spot against Finland last August, but he hasn't played in the green shirt since.
He asked O'Neill to give him a break from international football in order to shake off the injury problems that have plagued him for the last couple of seasons.
Now he is focused on adding to that strike, hopefully starting tonight.
"I haven't spoken about my injuries for a long time now because they are a thing of the past," said Paterson.
"I'm feeling excellent, physically I'm in the best shape of my career so I'm looking to kick on, this is a massive game for me.
"I'm free of injury and this step in my career is probably the most important, proving myself at this level.
"The decision to not play for a couple of games was a decision to get 20 games plus at the club, so that I wasn't coming away at 80 per cent.
"When I come now I am 100 per cent, and I aim to give the best of myself.
"It was a tough decision, because I think every footballer has a young boy in him who just wants to play all the time, score as many goals as you can.
"To turn away from games, yes it benefitted me to stay fit, but watching games and great performances hurts, but hurt sometimes is good, when hurt can drive you on.
"I definitely have a point to prove and make up for lost time – which I will do."
Paterson played down reports linking him with a summer move to join Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll at Greek club Olympiakos.
He said: "I'm waiting for Burnley to come to me with an offer. I won't discuss it any further out of respect to my club."