Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: David Healy will strike the right note and hit Windsor net

The Northern Ireland strikers have been dropping like flies on a hot summer day.

If they aren't injured they are insulting the Irish FA by turning down the chance to play for our wee country.

Such a shame, because against the Faroes, there should be goals in them thar hills.

Nigel Worthington has just THREE fit forwards left in his squad for tonight's crucial European Championship qualifier at Windsor Park.

Kyle Lafferty was the first to drop out, picking up an injury for Rangers. That has seriously damaged his club's start to the season. We can only hope his absence does not have the same impact on his country.

Lafferty has become Northern Ireland's top gun in attack, finally turning all that raw material into a finished product.

It was a big blow losing the man from Kesh, but we shrugged our shoulders and said “hey, it's only the Faroe Islands”.

At the weekend Burnley's Martin Paterson and Millwall's Josh McQuoid pulled out.

“No worries, it's only the Faroe Islands.”

Then came news of James McClean's defection to the Republic.

“This eligibility rule is getting beyond a joke, but at least it's only the Faroes.”

Finally on Monday, Warren Feeney, who would play for his country on one leg, withdrew due to what must be a troublesome groin injury.

“Thank goodness, it's the Faroe Islands.”

So that leaves us with three strikers standing — Linfield hero Peter Thompson, Derby County livewire Jamie Ward, primed for his international debut and the old fella of the squad, a certain David Healy.

Worthington and 31-year-old Healy haven’t always seen eye to eye, with the latter unhappy in the past when the boss has publicly voiced his desire to see the forward move on in order to secure first team football.

Now though they both need each other. David needs Nigel to show faith in him.

And Nigel needs David to score the goals tonight that could alleviate any nightmare scenario of the Faroes getting anything from the Windsor clash, like they did in Toftir with a 1-1 draw last October.

King David knows all about feasts and famines in international football.

He started his Northern Ireland career back in 2000, scoring twice on his debut against Luxembourg. With Sammy McIlroy at the helm, the Killyleagh man kept finding the net until the team suffered that infamous drought. The dry spell broke a European record and lasted 1298 minutes before Healy ended it during Lawrie Sanchez's first game in charge.

With that gorilla off the back, the Rangers ace went on a scoring spree never seen before by Northern Ireland fans and unlikely to be repeated.

In that period every time our national team stepped on the pitch, you knew Healy would score and he did, netting winning goals against all and sundry, including England, Sweden and Denmark. He also hit a stunning hat-trick at Windsor when beating a brilliant Spanish side, who would go on and become European and World Champions.

The guy was unstoppable and for a two-year magic spell was the most prolific international striker on the continent, taking his tally to 35 goals.

The last of those came on October 15, 2008, in a comfortable win over San Marino.

Healy has not played in all our games since — he was even dropped from a few squads — and has now gone 17 internationals without a goal or a remarkable 1,100 minutes to be more exact.

Winning his 87th cap, as he surely must from the start against the Faroes, I'm confident that barren run will end.

And the thing with Healy is that if he gets one, more tend to follow, which would be a huge help in the remainder of the campaign.

Healy remains a Northern Ireland sporting legend, for his heroics in years gone by.

His passionate blast at defectors to the Republic will not have done him any harm with fans either. A Healy goal this evening, will be cheered long and loud by the Kop, who still revere him.

He could do with some ammunition and Celtic's Paddy McCourt is the Bhoy to provide it. He has the skill and vision to open up defenders.

The alternative is unthinkable so expect Northern Ireland to win tonight — and look to Healy to get back among the goals.

He hasn't had much to cheer at Windsor lately, but tonight I fancy that will change.

Belfast Telegraph


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