Belfast Telegraph

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Carson wants a chance to tackle old pal Gattuso

Stephen Carson’s Northern Ireland call-up has offered him a golden chance to catch up with an old friend and team-mate.

Carson and Italian World Cup winner Gennaro "Rino" Gattuso both made their debuts for Rangers at Seaview in a testimonial for Kirk Hunter.

The Coleraine winger, who arrived at Ibrox when he was an ambitious 14-year-old, rubbed shoulders with some of the game’s greats for six years including Gattuso, Paul Gascoigne and Artur Numan.

Although Carson only made four appearances for the Gers he enjoyed the steep learning curve and is now relishing a reunion with the tough-tackling AC Milan midfielder.

The Bannsiders favourite is one of five Irish League players in Nigel Worthington’s squad for the June 6 friendly in Pisa and he is hoping to embarrass the 2006 World Cup hero.

“It was great to make my debut with Rino at Seaview and it was a game I was not going to forget in a hurry as the Crusaders left back took me out,” said Carson.

“But Rino was a hard worker and ferocious tackler. I have been fortunate to play or train with top players like Paul Gascoigne and Barry Ferguson and feature in a European Cup game against Borussia Dortmund.

“They were good guys and it would be nice to see Rino again but he has done fantastically well in his career, winning everything including the World Cup and Champions League. I would settle for making an appearance for Northern Ireland but I would not be overawed by the occasion as I have played with great players and in big games.

“It’s always rewarding to test yourself against the best players and they don’t come better than Italy.”

Carson feels he has been playing the best football of his career over the last two seasons but the 28-year-old accepts that this game is about the quality of Northern Ireland’s production line.

“Guys like Colin Coates, Martin Donnelly, Robbie Garrett and Alan Mannus are young enough to make the move across the water and carve out a career there,” he added.

“They can follow in the footsteps of Peter Thompson but for me this call-up is an acknowledgement of my good form and of course I am a proud person who is determined not to let anyone or myself down. I am not playing in England but I have no gripes about that.

“It’s always nice to be recognised and rewarded when you are doing well.

“I know some players will say they are surprised by news when perhaps they half expected it but I was genuinely shocked by this call-up.

“Nigel (Worthington) clearly has faith in us and it’s encouraging to see. Whatever team Italy puts out will be very strong and a huge test for our side but the players won’t be lacking desire or hunger. Hopefully I can show good qualities and enjoy the experience.”

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