Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland football fans bite back

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland fans last night reacted with dismay to the shocking performance and morale sapping 1-0 friendly defeat in Albania.

Considered amongst the most loyal supporters in the world, there was clearly a feeling amongst the Green and White Army that they were badly let down by Nigel Worthington’s side on Wednesday.

Angry fans were scathing about the display on Internet sites with some suggesting that it was now crazy for the Irish FA to consider going to Chile, still suffering the effects of the earthquake, for an end-of-season tour following the nightmare trip to Albania.

Gary McAllister, spokesman for the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs, said: “The match with Albania was scheduled to build confidence for the European Championship qualifiers later this year, but it didn’t work out like that.

“The friendly wasn’t against the most glamourous opposition, played on a poor pitch with a demoralising outcome which had people questioning its worth.

“Fans have mixed views on the value of friendlies internationals. My own is that they are useful to develop young players.”

Jim Rainey, travel secretary of the Amalgamation, added: “The performance was as bad as I’ve seen in a while. Albania is not the most attractive of countries to visit and it’s hard to get there. That’s why myself and many others didn’t go. There will be lots of fans booking flights and accommodation when the dates for the Euro campaign come out next week and that will be expensive enough.”

Eighty Northern Ireland fans made the trip to Tirana and David Healy reveals in his Belfast Telegraph column today that he had a frank exchange of views with one of them after the final whistle.

Record goalscorer Healy wrote: “After the match one of our supporters shouted to the players that it was the worst he had seen from a Northern Ireland team. That’s his opinion. Fair enough. He also said that we weren’t fit to wear the shirt which I thought was a bit over the top so I asked him to come and have a chat.

“He was obviously angry with how things turned out. I told him that the players are devoted to the country too and the easy option for the boys would have been to have stayed at home and not travelled, but we were in Tirana trying to get a result.”

The fan apologised to Healy the next day for what had been said.

Belfast Telegraph


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