Ferguson: I won't switch to Republic
Shane Ferguson last night ended the uncertainty surrounding his international future by spelling out his commitment to Northern Ireland.
Concerns that the Newcastle United man was on the brink of a switch to the Republic have been on-going for some months, but Ferguson has now spoken for the first time to finally clear up the speculation — on the same day that a group of Northern Ireland supporters handed a letter to the Football Association of Ireland in protest over their selection of northern-born players.
“I’ve always wanted to stay with Northern Ireland,” Ferguson told the Belfast Telegraph after playing in the Northern Ireland under-21’s defeat against Serbia.
“A lot of stuff that was said about me wasn’t true. I think I’ve proved that I want to stay by turning up to play for the under-21s.
“It was a bit disappointing because some of the things that were said were hurtful and it wasn’t true. I’m happy to be here and I’m loving it.”
Now Ferguson is keen to finally put all the talk regarding his future behind him by winning the competitive debut that would ensure his future is with Northern Ireland.
“Hopefully I can impress the new manager, whoever it is who comes in,” he said.
Former manager Nigel Worthington had wanted to call the 20-year-old into the squad for the final Euro 2012 qualifiers against Estonia and Italy, but for the second time in sixth months Ferguson failed to take any of the calls made to him by the manager or Irish FA staff or reply to messages.
He denied that was down to a fall-out with Worthington.
“There was a bit of a communication problem. Nigel was here for the game and I spoke to him. Everything is fine,” said Ferguson.
“I’ve no regrets about missing out on the games last month, or anything. I think I’ve made the right decision and I’m just ready to play now.”
It is widely believed that Ferguson was contacted by the FAI to sound him out over the possibility of switching his international allegiance.
Other northern-born players, like Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy, Daniel Devine, Daniel Kearns and Paul George, have declared for the Republic in recent years after winning caps at underage level for Northern Ireland.
This has angered the IFA, but they failed to stop players from switching when the Court of Arbitration for Sport insisted that rules are now being broken.
Now the fans have written to the FAI asking them to meet with their IFA counterparts in order to thrash out a deal that is fair to both parties.
“Two years ago the FAI chief executive John Delaney gave a great speech about fair play and integrity after the Thierry Henry handball put them out of the World Cup at the hands of France, but fair play and integrity should apply whether you are advantaged or disadvantaged,” said Gary McAllister, from the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs.
“We have asked the FAI to sit down with the IFA and come to a by-lateral agreement that can be taken to Fifa and therefore end the ill-feeling over the player eligibility row.”