Belfast Telegraph

Roy Carroll in plea to Northern Ireland fans

By Graham Luney

Roy Carroll has issued a rallying call to his Northern Ireland team-mates ahead of tonight's World Cup qualifier against Russia – prove you deserve the fans' support.

The Windsor Park faithful have performed the role of 12th man on many memorable occasions but they are currently a frustrated lot, waiting for a first home win since a 4-0 victory over the Faroe Islands in August, 2011.

Boss Michael O'Neill has gone eight matches at the helm without a victory and the team's winless run has hit 12 games.

Russia are at Windsor tonight (7.45pm) ahead of Israel's visit on Tuesday evening and Olympiakos shot-stopper Carroll knows how important a role the fans can play in driving the team across the line to a long awaited victory.

"You need to have the crowd behind you but it's up to us – we have to show them that we are hungry for the win," said the Fermanagh man.

"We have to go out there and give 100% every time we play for Northern Ireland and put the shirt on. The fans will always be behind you if you do that – give 100% to the cause."

Northern Ireland sit fourth in qualifying group F, their hopes of reaching the finals in Brazil dangling by a thread after three draws and a defeat.

But the former Manchester United keeper, who has had to conquer problems with alcohol and gambling earlier in his career, isn't prepared to raise the white flag. "We have to win the game," admitted Carroll. "If we want to keep our qualification hopes alive, it's a must-win game.

"I'm believing in everything. After what has happened in my life, I can believe in anything. We would love to qualify for a big tournament and you keep fighting to the very last second."

Carroll still regards himself as a bit of a fresh face in the Northern Ireland camp as a six-years absence from the set-up is a long time.

It's impossible for him to paint a picture of how things have changed since the days when Nigel Worthington was barking orders but on Budget day he could see a few green shoots of recovery.

"There is a great energy around the training with the younger players," said Carroll.

"It's been fantastic working with younger and more experienced players again and working under Michael and Billy (McKinlay). The players are very professional and they want to work hard and improve.

"There's also a lot of people doing hard work behind the scenes who haven't been mentioned a lot like physios, doctors, even the kitmen. It's all changed from the times when I came to the team and it's all changed for the good.

"You are representing your country and you have to be professional about it. Professional players must show that commitment and the right attitude."

He added: "It's nice to be back in the squad and playing again.

"I know we have quality keepers available to play for Northern Ireland such as Lee Camp and Alan (Mannus) played really well out in Malta. We are fighting for that number one shirt on Friday as well. But that's where we are. You don't want to be happy just playing, you want to putting on that shirt all the time and proving you are worthy of it."

Carroll, whose international exile ended against Holland last summer, added: "It's been difficult when you're not winning. In the two home games against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan we had about 50 shots in each game but the players are up for it and when you play against the Russians you know you have to perform," he said.

"We are Northern Ireland and we want to win games. And we hate losing."

Belfast Telegraph


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