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Wales v Northern Ireland: Conor Washington's Northern Ireland debut brings home comforts

By Steven Beacom

From the press conference room in St David's hotel overlooking Cardiff Bay, Northern Ireland's newest recruit Conor Washington pointed out across the water towards where he used to live.

I asked if it was the big house we could see in the distance. Smiling, he replied that it was 'an apartment', reminding me that he was playing for Newport County at the time!

Just two years on, the one-time postman and former non-league footballer will play his first international against Wales tomorrow night in a friendly at Cardiff City's stadium.

"It is a bit ironic that I could make my international debut, effectively where this journey started," he said.

Asked about life as a postie and playing for non-league St Ives, the QPR striker stated those days 'seemed like a lifetime ago even though it's only a few years'.

He added not coming through an academy system has made him even more determined to hang on to what he has got, citing others as examples to follow.

"A lot of it comes down to the hunger. Much has been made of how a lot is given to young players but with the likes of myself, Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy and Andre Gray, we've been down at a lower level and don't want to go back," said the 23-year-old who went from St Ives to Newport before Peterborough snapped him up.

His scoring form with Posh this season earned him a move to QPR in January.

He has yet to score for his new club but says he is learning a great deal working with manager and one-time Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

"Buzzing" to have earned his first international call-up, he is keen to prove his worth to Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill and his new team-mates against Wales in Cardiff and at Windsor Park on Monday when Slovenia are in Belfast.

Washington may not have played in the Euro qualifiers but he wants to make the plane to France as much as anyone.

"I'd like to get a bit of game time in the next two matches and show what I can do and hopefully be an asset to the squad. The aim is to make it to France," said the English-born frontman who qualifies for O'Neill's squad through a Belfast grandmother.

"I think the way Northern Ireland play will suit me in terms of not having the most possession but playing a good brand of counter-attacking football.

"I watched the last Euros on TV and as a young boy you dream of going to tournaments and that's what I hope to do."

Friendly: Cardiff City Stadium, Thurs 7.45 pm (BBC)


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