Belfast Telegraph

Worthington has made me a much better player: Cathcart

By Graham Luney

Craig Cathcart plans to repay the faith Nigel Worthington has shown in him by booking his country’s ticket for the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

The Blackpool defender says Northern Ireland boss Worthington has made him a “better player” by asking him to perform at full back in the qualifiers.

Cathcart shone on his senior international debut in Maribor in September when in an unfamiliar left back role and he set up Corry Evans’ late winner.

Worthington knew then he could trust the versatile defender and against Serbia and Slovenia he slotted in at right back.

The 22-year-old stood shoulder to shoulder with Jonny Evans, Stephen Craigan and skipper Gareth McAuley to keep a clean sheet on Tuesday night, a result which keeps Northern Ireland’s qualifying dream on a knife edge.

Serbia’s 1-1 draw with Estonia meant there were no big winners on the night, though Worthington’s men may live to regret two points dropped at home.

However, Cathcart has few regrets at the moment as he’s loving the roller-coaster ride with Blackpool and Northern Ireland.

His Northern Ireland adventure sees him return to Bloomfield Road with added confidence and renewed belief that the Tangerines — who travel to Chris Baird’s and Aaron Hughes’ Fulham on Sunday — will consolidate their place in England’s top flight.

“Nigel (Worthington) showed a lot of confidence in me personally by playing me at right back and I’m just happy to be playing,” said Cathcart.

“We’ve kept two clean sheets against Slovenia and that’s what defenders want. It’s definitely improved my development as a footballer as I had never really played full back before.

“For the three caps I have, I have played left back and right-back so that gives you more experience.

“There is a lot more running involved at full back with tricky wingers keeping you on your toes. But if you are going to play for your country, you will play anywhere.

“Full back is certainly good for the fitness but hopefully I can go back to centre back where it might be a bit easier for me!

“Ian Holloway (Blackpool manager) wants his players to do really well so I’m sure he’s happy for me.

“It could be a tough end to the season but we have four home games coming up after Fulham and those are vital, pivotal for us for the rest of the season.

“We don’t have many 0-0 draws. We have goals in every game and Sunday will be no different.

“Eight or nine teams can go down still but I think we have enough going forward to keep us up.”

Northern Ireland lie fifth in Group C but only two points separate four teams and Cathcart isn’t going to stop dreaming now.

“The draw in the other game was a big bonus for us and we have a game in hand so there is plenty to fight for for the rest of the campaign,” he said.

Jonny Evans, who came through the Manchester United ranks just ahead of Cathcart, says there was no need for all the ‘must-win’ talk before the game.

“I think people were panicking about us not winning this game,” he said. “That’s the way football goes and you accept that as a player but all we aim to do is go out and try to put in good performances to get good results.

“I think both teams were tired after the weekend and it showed in the performances of both sides.”

Belfast Telegraph


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