Belfast Telegraph

Flanagan is hoping to stay on big stage

By Adam McKendry

As far as debuts go, Tom Flanagan couldn't have imagined it going better.

Part of a defensive trio, Flanagan anchored the Northern Irish defence in Friday night's 1-0 friendly win over New Zealand and showed no signs of nerves in the clean sheet.

It's that kind of steely resolve that Michael O'Neill will be impressed with, coupled with the fact that the 25-year old didn't look a out of place alongside regulars Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes.

And the Burton Albion man says he's delighted with how his first appearance went.

"I couldn't have asked for anything more really," Flanagan admitted.

"The atmosphere was amazing and it was good to get (my debut) out of the way almost, and hopefully kick on.

"The first half was very much like our club football, you had much more time on the ball, and then in the second half it really stepped up and I thought that was a real different thing for me.

"That's the side of international football, the quality of the players shows."

As Flanagan made his first appearance, defensive partner Hughes was making his 105th, while Evans is no stranger to big games from his time with Manchester United.

"I couldn't have asked for more (experience beside me)," Flanagan reflected.

"Jonny plays every week in the Premier League and as for Aaron, that was his 105th cap.

"There wasn't more to ask for - maybe if Gareth (McAuley) was there, but if he was then I mightn't have played!"

From here the only way is up for the Hammersmith-born centre back, and he says his first taste of football on the international stage has only left him hungry for more.

A start in Baku this weekend may come too early for him, with McAuley set to return from injury for that game, but it doesn't stop Flanagan from hoping that Michael O'Neill will call upon him again.

"I'd be lying if I said I'd only like to come in here and there," Flanagan confidently stated.

"I want to play against Azerbaijan and then the following games on.

"That's what I've done at my club (Burton Albion), I've had a good season and played every week almost.

"It's infectious, now I've got the debut out of the way I'm just itching to play again!"

Belfast Telegraph


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