Northern Ireland v Serbia: Worthy has high hopes for new boy Camp
Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp earned his first call-up to the Northern Ireland squad yesterday.
And he could now make his debut in the Euro 2012 qualifier away to Serbia on Friday week — four years after winning the last of his five England under-21 caps.
Camp, who was recently given the green light by Fifa to switch allegiance thanks to his Newtownards-born grandfather after failing to impress England boss Fabio Capello, could get the nod for the tie in Belgrade with regular number one Maik Taylor sweating on his fitness following surgery on a knee injury.
Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington wasted no time in welcoming the 26-year old former Queen’s Park Rangers and Derby County custodian into the set-up after his qualifications were rubber-stamped by Fifa, with Linfield Alan Blayney missing out.
“We have Maik Taylor at almost 40 years old and we also have younger goalkeepers like Jonathan Tuffey and Trevor Carson, but to bring Lee in at 26-years of age — a keeper with a lot of experience — helps us bridge the gap,” said Worthington after naming a larger than normal 23-man squad for the double header, with the clash against Serbia on March 25 being followed by a Windsor Park showdown with Slovenia four days later.
“Do I have a pecking order with our goalkeepers? No, I'm very open-minded. Maik has had an injury, has been doing some training and it's something we will assess. I will be speaking with our doctor and the physios at Birmingham City.
“I will get a full report of where Maik is at because these are important games and things have to be right.
“I haven't spoken to Maik since the Carling Cup final when he was on the bench, but he hasn't been on the bench the past couple of games.
“Lee is delighted to be involved and everything has been processed.
“I've watched him a few times the past month and I've been very, very impressed with him. It's great to have him available for selection.”
Werder Bremen starlet Liam Boyce is a shock inclusion in the squad — a move which should finally quash any suggestion of the Republic of Ireland poaching the former Cliftonville striker.
Boyce, who left Solitude for Germany last August, earned his first cap in the Carling Nations Cup defeat to Scotland last month despite playing for the second string at his new club and the teenager earns his place ahead of Plymouth Argyle striker Rory Patterson.
The squad doesn’t contain a natural left-back, a position where there is now a void after George McCartney’s retirement.
Worthington continues his policy of giving young guns a chance to shine, with Watford defensive duo, Lee Hodson and Adam Thompson — who like Boyce made his debut against the Scots — also included, although Millwall striker Josh McQuoid narrowly missed out after impressing against Morocco in November.
Worthington added: “Young Liam did exceptionally well in training in the lead-up to the Scotland friendly in Dublin and I thought he did extremely well for the 20 minutes he had on the pitch.
“I like to encourage young players coming through and I've been impressed with Liam.
“He went to a different country to play his football in Germany and he has really responded to the challenges.
“I can see a big improvement in his play at such a young age. A lot of credit goes to him and he gets his reward by being called up again to the senior squad.”
Worthington admits the clash in Serbia will be trip into the unknown with home supporters locked out of the game after crowd trouble caused the abandonment of their last qualifier in Italy.
“We face two very important games,” said Worthington.
“Serbia will be a strange scenario not having a stadium with supporters in it.
“We will have to be ultra professional in our approach and tuned into a different environment. Our focus is on performing to our full potential and securing a positive result.
“I've never experienced this before. I doubt any of the players have either. We've got to deal with it and deal with it we will. If we put a big shift in and play to our best, we can get a result.
“Overall, we've had a good, steady start to the group and it's something we want to build on.”
Northern Ireland squad (v Serbia)
Maik Taylor (Birmingham City)
Jonathan Tuffey (Inverness CT) Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest) (pictured)
Jonny Evans (Manchester Utd)
Stephen Craigan (Motherwell)
Craig Cathcart (Blackpool)
Gareth McAuley (Ipswich Town)
Aaron Hughes (Fulham)
Lee Hodson (Watford)
Adam Thompson (Watford)
Chris Baird (Fulham)
Grant McCann (Peterborough)
Chris Brunt (West Brom)
Jonny Gorman (Wolverhamton)
Corry Evans (Manchester Utd)
Steven Davis (Rangers)
Niall McGinn (Celtic)
Sammy Clingan (Coventry City)
Pat McCourt (Celtic)
David Healy (Rangers)
Warren Feeney (Oldham Ath.)
Kyle Lafferty (Rangers)
Liam Boyce (Werder Bremen)