Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Serbia: Sammy’s blueprint for Euro joy? Let’s just beat everyone

By Staurt McKinley

Sammy Clingan has a foolproof plan that will take Northern Ireland all the way to the finals of the European Championships.

And then he expects to rattle some of Europe’s big boys next summer in Poland and Ukraine.

Clingan wants to finish the campaign with five successive victories — the Faroe Islands were beaten last month and now the 27-year-old is looking for four more successes, starting at home to Serbia tomorrow night and ending with what would be a remarkable triumph in Italy when the series draws to a close next month.

Some may think the Coventry City midfielder has gone mad, but if Nigel Worthington’s men can execute his plan successfully then nobody will be able to stop Northern Ireland from claiming a play-off spot as they aim it reach a European Championship finals for the first time.

“We’ve a really good chance to qualify this time,” said Clingan.

“This is one of the biggest games that we’re going to be involved in.

“We’ve four games left and I think we’re in a good position, especially after the win against the Faroe Islands.

“We’ve been given a real boost in confidence from that game and the performance when we played Serbia out there should give the lads a lot of confidence too.

“We played really well for a while and it was a good, solid first-half performance. They changed things in the second-half and even though we were under the cosh for a bit we deserved more.

“If we can get over this game we’d like to think we can get the points home and away against Estonia.

“We then want Italy to beat everyone else, win the group and then we can go out and beat Italy to qualify.”

He did smile at the prospect of toppling the Azzuri, but the whole country would have a massive grin if the string of results that Clingan is hoping for can be pulled off.

“It would be absolutely fantastic and it would be a dream to qualify for a major tournament,” said Clingan.

“We’re focused on each game, they are all really important.

“I believe we can do it. I’m sure all the other lads believe we can do it and the management believe we can do it.

“We have beaten some top countries and Serbia are another highly ranked nation.

Hopefully, with us being at home, we can get another good result to push us on in the group.

“Serbia have players who are with top clubs in Europe, clubs who are playing in the Champions League, but we’ve shown that we can compete with anyone.

“We do well against the top nations, you only have to look at the wins against Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Slovenia before.

“It would be great to get to the finals; it would be amazing I’m sure we’d be able to put in good performances if we got there, but just being there would be the pinnacle.”

Qualification hopes were given a massive boost last month when Paddy McCourt inspired Northern Ireland to that 4-0 win over the Faroe Islands.

The Celtic star lit up Windsor Park with two special goals as he started a competitive international for the first time.

Italy, Serbia and Slovenia were expected to be fighting it out for the qualification places when the draw came out, but at least one of them is going to miss out — and Clingan wants it to be two.

“The group looked tough when the draw came out, three teams who were in the World Cup last year,” said Clingan.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position and now we want to go on and complete the job.”

Belfast Telegraph


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