Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

McNair: Debut would be a dream

Paddy McNair admits he will fulfil his boyhood dream if he earns his first Northern Ireland cap against Scotland on Wednesday night.

The Manchester United defender has been given his first taste of top-team action at Old Trafford by new boss Louis van Gaal this season.

Now he is set to follow that up by making his international debut in Glasgow when Michael O'Neill's side take on the Scots at Hampden.

The 19-year-old was forced to pull out of his first involvement with the national team last October due to injury, while he was an unused substitute a month later as the Irish lost 2-0 away to Romania.

But he is expected to finally pull on the green jersey in the midweek friendly clash that will serve as a warm-up ahead of Sunday's crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with Finland at Windsor Park.

"It would be a dream come true if that happens," said the teenage centre-half. "As a young boy it is a dream to play for your country.

"I went to a few Northern Ireland games when I was very young but I don't remember too much about them. I can remember the atmosphere and hoping that one day I would be out there as well, so if I can do that on Wednesday I will be very proud."

Wednesday's match will be just as important to the Scots as it is O'Neill's troops as both countries look to end their long absences from major tournaments by claiming a slot at next year's European Championships in France.

While Northern Ireland are just a point off the summit of Group F after taking nine points from the first 12 available, Gordon Strachan's side are very much in the hunt themselves.

They sit third in Group D, three points behind leaders Poland and level on seven with Germany and the Republic of Ireland.

With that in mind, McNair does not expect an easy introduction to the international game.

"It's going to be tough," he said. "It's a game against another home nation and both teams want to win. It won't be a friendly.

"It's a game we can definitely win, though. We showed in the games in the qualifying group we can beat anybody.

"Scotland have some very good players. I've played against Steven Naismith earlier on this season and you can see why people rate him so highly."

McNair can also expect to come up against another familiar face clad in Dark Blue, with former United midfielder Darren Fletcher likely to line-up for the hosts.

The 31-year-old - who quit the Red Devils in January after 12 years to sign for West Brom - played an influential dressing-room role while McNair was making his way through the Old Trafford ranks.

And the youngster happily admits he owes the four-time Premier League winner a huge debt of gratitude.

"Darren really helped me a lot and have to thank him a lot for that," said McNair. "When I first broke into the team he gave me a lot of advice and really did help me settle in.

"When you come through at Manchester United, it is such a big club with so much pressure on you.

"Darren was in the same position I'm in now at one stage so he would often come up to me before games and have a word to make sure my head was on right.

"Darren is a great player and I'm very happy to see him back playing regularly with West Brom."

In the 13 games McNair has racked for Van Gaal's side this term, he has done enough to leave the Dutchman so impressed that he reckons the Ballyclare youth could be a mainstay of the United line-up for the next decade.

But McNair himself is trying not to look too far ahead.

He said: "I don't think I will really realise how good a season I have had until the end of the season when I look back at it, but so far I'm very happy.

"Am I surprised at how quickly things have gone this year? Yeah a little bit.

"Sometimes you just need a bit of luck to get your chance. But I was confident that once I got my chance I could take it."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph