Belfast Telegraph

Baird tells his Fulham pals to sink the Swedes

By Stuart McKinley

Chris Baird has sent his best wishes with his three Fulham team-mates as they joined up with the Northern Ireland squad for tomorrow night's Euro 2008 qualifier in Sweden.

The defender has captained the side in their last three matches, but is ruled out of the clash at the Rasunda Stadium through suspension.

So rather than being in the team that will attempt to get Northern Ireland's qualification challenge back on track and at the same time trying to stop the Swedes from claiming their spot in the finals, Baird is back at the Fulham training ground preparing for this weekend's meeting with Derby County.

He would, however, rather have made the trip to Stockholm - especially after also missing out when David Healy's two goals beat the Swedes at Windsor Park back in March.

"I'm gutted not to be involved in the Northern Ireland side this week," said Baird, who cost former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez £3.5million in a move from Southampton in the summer.

"I missed the home game when we beat Sweden 2-1 through injury so I haven't played against them and I'm unhappy not to be travelling away.

"Hopefully the boys can go and get a result and still give us a chance to qualify."

Baird played the last three games in the centre of defence, where Aaron Hughes and Stephen Craigan are expected to be restored as the number one partnership, with Gareth McAuley in-line to operate out of position as an emergency right-back for his first competitive start.

Belfast Telegraph


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