I want a starting spot at the World Cup, says Northern Ireland new-boy George Saville
Northern Ireland may have just uncovered a new midfield gem.
Boss Michael O'Neill only became aware of George Saville's eligibility for Northern Ireland a month ago as the Millwall ace qualifies through his Enniskillen-born grandmother.
But O'Neill has been so impressed with the 24-year-old former Chelsea trainee that he gave London-born Saville his debut against Germany with 10 minutes to go last Thursday night, and then rewarded him with the full second half in Norway.
Saville nearly opened his international goal-scoring account within seconds of coming on at the Ullevaal Stadion and, after using strength and tenacity to win the ball in midfield, he showed great vision to link up with Conor Washington but was denied a clean shot at goal by the keeper. Then with five minutes to go he blazed the ball over the bar from six yards out after Chris Brunt's corner was headed back into the danger zone by Stuart Dallas.
Saville said: "I felt a bit of a touch (from a defender) for the first one, I was stretching a bit to get there. The second one, maybe I should have scored, or at least done better on the corner. I'm disappointed I haven't scored that but I'm just glad to be getting on the pitch. The manager is trusting me."
Having made two substitute appearances, confident Saville now wants to push on and actually start an international. The next international will be the first leg of the play-offs next month.
Steven Davis, Ollie Norwood and Corry Evans are O'Neill's reliable midfielders but Saville has really caught the eye of the Northern Ireland manager, who believes he could play his club football at the highest level.
"I'm really pleased obviously to get on in both games, making my involvement competitive, and I'm pushing to start," says Saville. "I want to push the boys on, give them a boost, do what I can to help - that's what I came in to do over the last two games, do whatever I can to bring to the team."