Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland don't get the respect we deserve and now we're out to prove them all wrong again: Ward

By Graham Luney

Jamie Ward last night claimed Northern Ireland don't get the respect they deserve and warned Switzerland they are determined to silence the doubters.

Ward's international team-mate Oliver Norwood has argued that Northern Ireland deserve wider recognition for their achievements, and the Nottingham Forest forward shares that view.

"I think Premier League clubs see it as it's Northern Ireland and they've not done well for a long time, but on the other side they'll go and buy players from the Republic of Ireland squad," said Ward ahead of tomorrow's World Cup play-off first leg at home to Switzerland.

"We're just as good as them, but it's obviously about someone taking a chance on us and letting us prove we're worth playing at the next level.

"Managers do what's right for them. It's life, and we've just got to get on with it. If people don't want to respect us and what we're doing, it's tough luck."

After progressing to the knockout stages of Euro 2016, Michael O'Neill's side are now two games away from next summer's World Cup finals in Russia, but they must overcome the Swiss in a play-off double-header, with the first leg at Windsor Park tomorrow and rematch in Basel on Sunday.

Ward argued: "Every game you go into you want to prove people wrong because there's always someone that's doubted you.

"I think we've proved a lot of people wrong already. Hopefully we can take it to the next stage and get to another major tournament."

Ward is thrilled to be back in the camp for the first time since March having overcome a calf problem.

The 31-year-old was at Windsor Park to watch the 3-1 defeat to Germany last month but he's hoping for a little less strict security measures tomorrow.

"I'd a bit of a problem getting through security at the ground, which I'm sure if you ask the lads about they'd tell you because their coach came right past me at the time, so yeah, it was a bit frustrating," said Ward.

"They didn't know who I was, but at least I didn't use the, 'Do you not know who I am' line! But as soon as the bus came past where I was, I just knew the lads were going to see.

"I tried hiding and everything but that didn't work out, they'd already seen me.

"I'm guessing some of the security staff don't watch football. It's alright.

"They were doing their job, weren't they? Making sure the ground was safe.

"It was great to be over, see the game and watch the lads - you don't get the pleasure of watching Germany too many times, do you? It was nice to watch and hopefully learn a few things."

With access to Windsor Park guaranteed for Ward tomorrow night, he would love to make a big impact on the pitch, but Vladimir Petkovic's team also fancy their chances of making it to Russia.

"We'd love something heading over there (to Basel)," he added. "I think we're strong at home and you've seen that over the last few years. If we play the way we can play, I don't see why we can't take a lead out there or at least a positive result.

"At the end of the day they've got to take their chances. Everyone is expecting them to win in the football world.

"They're obviously the seeded team, so the pressure's more on them than us.

"We're always great as the underdogs, so I think it was a bit of a bonus us not being seeded.

"If you're seeded you get a little more pressure on yourself so we'll go into this game as underdogs again. Hopefully we can be worthy winners."

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