Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Northern Ireland's class of 2017 can be heroes for next 30 years: Nicholl

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland legend Jimmy Nicholl believes the class of 2017 can write a special new chapter in the country's World Cup history.

Michael O'Neill's men are within touching distance of the finals in Russia next summer and only Switzerland stand in their way over two tense play-off clashes.

Nicholl, O'Neill's number two, was part of Billy Bingham's 1982 and 1986 squads that graced the world stage but now it's time for new heroes to emerge.

With the first leg at Windsor Park on Thursday night and the return in Basel on Sunday, tension is rising among the Green and White Army but former Manchester United and Rangers favourite Nicholl is urging them to keep the faith.

"In my mind, it doesn't matter how well we do in qualifying, I want us to stay the underdogs and be written off," said Nicholl.

"Our boys are never arrogant or cocky, they have their feet on the ground but they are hungry and ambitious. I think with that attitude, you always have a chance. For the players it could be the time of their lives.

"In 30 years time, this group will be talked about in the same way Billy Bingham's 1980s squads are today. They can be history makers."

If Northern Ireland, who progressed to the knockout stages of Euro 2016, reach Russia it will be first time they have made it to back to back major tournaments.

Belfast Telegraph

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