I may need to whisper it but Windsor Park actually looked like a football stadium last night.
With the Railway Stand now a distant memory, temporary seating was erected behind the goal to create a spectacular atmosphere.
All four sides of the old stadium were awash with green and white with only the slightest pockets of blue.
The Italians are notoriously bad travellers and the foot soldiers of the Green and White Army were only too happy to snap up the remaining tickets.
Irish FA chiefs must have been rubbing their hands at the prospect of more readies in the kitty with a 15,000 sell-out.
Who knows, if the squabbling administrators ever get their act together, maybe the famous Windsor 12th man could turn it up another notch. Signs have been positive on the pitch — all the Northern Ireland football public crave now is a modern stadium to watch their heroes.
Players and backroom staff, to a man, are big believers in the crowd given the team something extra when the chips are down or when they face a stern test against one of the world powers.
The noise which greeted the players was deafening; there’s no doubt that any nation from San Marino to Spain would dread coming to a new and improved national stadium.
So IFA, take a look at DVD of last night’s match, forget your petty differences and get the finger out to make sure Northern Ireland football has a home the entire country can be proud of.
And as the game got underway the new and improved roof on the North Stand almost lifted as the fans got into full swing, well, more full bounce.
Former boss Lawrie Sanchez, who walked out during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, must have been cursing his decision to quit three years ago as he watched the new feel-good factor sweeping Windsor.
With World Cup flops, Italy, not blessed with the household names any non-avid watcher of Serie A would recognise, the fans dared to believe — just as they did under Sanchez when England and Spain were sent packing with their tails between their legs.
Even the referee, seemed to be enjoying the Belfast experience. Okay, so he wasn’t wearing green but his luminous yellow shirt was close enough.
Some of the decisions he gave in favour of Nigel Worthington’s men defied belief — perhaps the French official got his Ireland’s mixed up and was trying to make up for Dublin’s least favourite basketball star, Thierry Henry!
Well, that was short-lived because after the break it was the Italians who were getting the dubious benefit of any doubt.
With the intensity dipping, the noise levels did, too. The sight of Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty entering the fray for David Healy changed that and he didn’t disappoint, winning a corner against the odds.
As the visitors’ frustration grew after wasting any half-chance to come their way, the home crowd found their voice with typical banter.
“Are you San Marino in disguise,” they sang.
Back came the ‘bouncey’ in the rocking stand behind Maik Taylor’s goal. The only thing moving more was Italy boss Cesare Prandelli, who was dancing around his technical area during every attack.
He looked uncomfortable, and there’s no doubt he won’t fancy another trip back to Windsor.
Maybe he might be met with a bigger and better venue if he ever does — let’s not hold our breath, though.
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