Belfast Telegraph

Oliver Norwood has his sights set on breaking more records with Northern Ireland

By Steven Beacom in Lyon

Oliver Norwood continues to create history with Northern Ireland... and he's far from finished.

The Reading midfielder is the only player to have featured in ALL of the games in Northern Ireland's record breaking unbeaten run which moved to 12 on Saturday night with a 0-0 draw in Slovakia.

Norwood, who is the subject of a £1.5million bid from Premier League new boys Hull and is also a target for Burnley and Celtic, wants the mark to rise to 13, 14 and 15 in the coming weeks against Poland, Ukraine and Germany in the Euro 2016 group matches.

"It's 12 unbeaten now so that's a big positive we can take into the tournament. We have momentum and we want to keep that going," said 25-year-old Norwood.

"It was a tough game against Slovakia.

"They had a lot of ball and we didn't have as much, but we are very difficult to play against and we'll make it difficult for teams in France.

"We knew it was going to be a difficult night, but that's why Michael (O'Neill) wanted to take the game on. It was a great test against very good opposition.

"We limited them in terms of creating clear-cut chances and that's testament to the work-rate of the lads and the fitness levels."

While praising the defensive element of Northern Ireland's display, Norwood, who has gained a reputation for his straight talking when conducting interviews, added that improvements would be required when the team are in possession.

"We have to use the ball a bit better than we did against Slovakia if we want to look to progress out of the group stages in France," he said.

"I'm sure we will work on that this week because we can't afford to chase games for 90 minutes. Fair play to Slovakia, they moved the ball well and moved us about."

Like all the players, Norwood was delighted to finally land in France yesterday after what has been a long build-up.

"It's exciting and it's starting to feel real now," said Norwood.

"We spoke before the game and Michael told us we had earned the right to be playing a final friendly in June heading into a major tournament."

Norwood was delighted to see veteran Aaron Hughes come on the pitch to win his 100th cap at the weekend.

Hughes admitted he was emotional about becoming a centurion and Norwood stated that he felt a great sense of pride too when the 36-year-old reached the landmark.

"I'm sure everyone will say, it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke," said Norwood.

"I'm proud to be part of the team when he won his 100th cap.

"It's great to have someone like Aaron in the squad and he is still a top class player.

"He can still play at this level, quite easily, and he looked comfortable. It's an amazing achievement and it shouldn't be underestimated.

"It was a proud night for this group of players to be involved in."

Belfast Telegraph