Belfast Telegraph

Paterson ready to lead Northern Ireland line after much-needed break

By Graham Luney

MARTIN Paterson says he’s refreshed and raring to go for Northern Ireland tonight and that’s music to the ears of his boss Michael O’Neill.

Northern Ireland’s striking options for the daunting World Cup qualifier against Russia at Windsor Park have been limited by Kyle Lafferty’s suspension and injuries to Dean Shiels, Will Grigg and Jamie Ward.

O’Neill has Inverness forward Billy McKay, Bury’s David Healy and Aberdeen pair Niall McGinn and Josh Magennis to select from but he may ask Burnley hitman Paterson to perform a lone striking role.

The 25-year-old hasn’t pulled on the green jersey since the 3-3 draw with Finland in August due to a self-imposed exile in order to get himself back to full fitness following a series of injuries.

But now he’s back on the international stage, hungry for a run out against Russia and then Israel on Tuesday at Windsor Park.

The Englishman has declared that he’s fit for the job.

“I think it was good for me that I got a break and have come back refreshed,” said Paterson.

“I had to come back in a good mental and physical condition and I couldn’t commit to the cause when I felt I wasn’t ready.

“I think I know myself when I’m fit and ready to do a job and I could only do that by getting a run of games under my belt.

“For the first time in a while I have been able to go on a run of about 30 games and with that fitness gained I’m ready and hungry to play.”

With Lafferty suspended, Paterson is sensing this could be his big moment. “It’s always going to be competitive between the strikers as any player is going to want to perform,” he added.

“With Kyle being suspended for the Russia game the door might open for someone else and that’s the manager’s call.

“We don’t know the team yet but you have to be ready to do a job and hopefully I can make a contribution to the team.”

He added: “From what I have seen of the matches the boys have been a bit unlucky and a few chances have come and gone.

“Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve and I think the performances have been good enough to win matches, with that little extra luck that you need.

“But the team could turn a corner with these two matches and we might enjoy a slice of fortune.

“Fabio (Capello) has said it will be a tough test for his team and it’s a sign of respect because he knows his side cannot be complacent.

“Windsor can be a tough place to come do as we have made it difficult for big sides in the past. We must make it a tough game for Russia and even try to win.”

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