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Bobby Burns' return will give Northern Ireland Under 21s a lift on and off the pitch, says boss Crosby

N Ireland U21s v Finland U21s: Ballymena Showgrounds, Today, 6.00pm


Bobby Burns in action for Northern Ireland Under 21s last year.

Bobby Burns in action for Northern Ireland Under 21s last year.

Bobby Burns in action for Northern Ireland Under 21s last year.

Andy Crosby says he is delighted to have Bobby Burns back in the fold for Northern Ireland's Under-21 European Championship double header against Finland and Ukraine.

Crosby's kids host Finland tonight at the Ballymena Showgrounds before facing Ukraine next Tuesday at the same venue and, while qualification for the Euro finals is not a possibility for Northern Ireland, the caretaker manager has set his side a target of jumping from fifth to third in the group table in their three remaining games.

Northern Ireland are on six points at present, one behind both the Finns and Ukraine, which underlines how important the next two games are if Crosby is to reach his aim.

Having left sided player Burns back should help.

The former Glenavon ace joined Glentoran on loan from Barrow at the weekend and brings with him quality on the pitch and sparkle off it.

"Having Bobby around the place is a massive positive because of his personality," says Crosby.

"He is one of a kind and bubbly the whole time.

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"Obviously he has a massive passion for life and football, and he missed the last camp through injury so it is great to have him back around the group.

"He loves playing for his country, he loves being around the other lads and he has real ability so it is good to have him here."

Another player who has returned from injury to the Under-21 fold is Ciaron Brown but, with Linfield's Ross Larkin performing so well in last month's matches against Malta and Denmark, he will find that competition is strong in the heart of defence.

Crosby says: "Ciaron adds to the competition for places in the way we are going to play.

"He has had a bit of a stop-start period with Livingston after going back there from Cardiff on loan and has had a strange time with the international set-up, getting his senior cap and then coming back to play for us, but he provides real experience in the squad.

"I have big decisions to make with the central defence because Ross Larkin has been doing well with Linfield and played in both games last month, got himself a goal and did really well.

"At home to Finland and Ukraine, I am looking for two wins with third place in the group very much up for grabs.

"In our last two games, I was pleased with the organisation of the team when out of possession.

"I was slightly disappointed with our use of the ball so we have to try and develop our game and be better in possession."

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