Belfast Telegraph

Corry Evans confident his 10th Northern Ireland anniversary will be marked by a victory

 

Time flies: Corry Evans reflects on making his debut against a star-studded Italy side back in 2009 ahead of the Estonia clash
Time flies: Corry Evans reflects on making his debut against a star-studded Italy side back in 2009 ahead of the Estonia clash
Shane Ferguson

By Paul Ferguson

Battling midfielder Corry Evans is hoping to celebrate his 10 year international anniversary with victory over Estonia tomorrow night.

The Blackburn Rovers ace made his debut against Italy exactly a decade ago yesterday.

Evans, just 18 then, was part of Nigel Worthington's midfield in Pisa that took on Gennaro Gattuso, Fabio Grosso and Guiseppe Rossi and were defeated 3-0 by World Cup winners.

He has since gone on to be a vital player for Michael O'Neill, and in Tallinn, at the A Le Coq Arena, he could win his 53rd cap.

Versatile midfielder Shane Ferguson also made his first Northern Ireland appearance in that game, coming on in the second half.

"I honestly didn't realise it was 10 years ago - it has flown by," says modest Evans.

"It was a hot night in Pisa and it was a great experience to go up against the players of the calibre of Italy.

"I remember chasing Gattuso around for 70-odd minutes that night and it really was good on my debut to play against the Italians.

"Damian Johnson played that night, he captained the side, and I think Shane Ferguson came on for me to make his debut too. It's a night I will never forget."

Evans, who was in Manchester United's reserves in 2009, was one of a number of players brought into Worthington's squad for the Italian match as regular senior members had made themselves unavailable for the game.

It was a skeleton squad, with Irish League players including Colin Coates and Stephen Carson called up.

It was the start of a depressing period for Northern Ireland football and Evans, in those days, could never have envisaged the success the men in green have enjoyed under Michael O'Neill.

"It's night and day since when I made my debut to where we are now," concedes Evans, the younger brother of centre back Jonny.

"I think huge credit has to go to Michael for the way he has come in and completely transformed the team and squad. He has given us that belief to go and win on the international stage.

"Obviously getting to the Euros has given us massive confidence and belief that we can do it again. We nearly did it with the World Cup. We've tasted a bit of success and now we want more. We were disappointed to miss out on the World Cup but we want to taste another major tournament."

To do that, Northern Ireland will need to overcome Estonia tomorrow in Tallinn, followed by Belarus three days later in Borisov.

Evans missed the home victories over Estonia and Belarus in March due to injury, but he was a keen observer and is expecting an extremely difficult challenge in eastern Europe.

Northern Ireland haven't won an away match for over two years - San Marino in September 2017 - but Evans is confident the men in green will secure the points they require.

"In international football every team now will give you a tough game," stresses Evans.

"Both teams are of a good quality and they can be dangerous to us.

"We've shown we can get results away from home, so hopefully we can do that again on Saturday and Tuesday."

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