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Northern Ireland looking good for 2010 qualification

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Steve Wilson | 13:06 UK time, Friday, 4 September 2009

It's been more than a decade since any home nation other than England qualified for a major tournament. That would have seemed almost unthinkable through what was perhaps a golden age of the 80s when Scotland and Northern Ireland frequently played alongside the English on the world stage.

England's qualification for the South African World Cup looks pretty much a given at the moment and could be sealed against Croatia at Wembley, but will they be on their own again?

Welsh fans certainly needn't worry about updating their passports for the summer. A group including Germany and Russia always looked a tall order and that's how it's turned out.

I haven't seen Wales play live in this qualifying campaign, so will happily bow to the opinion of those who have; but judging from their results and the huge ranks of empty seats at the Millennium Stadium, the mantra that Wales have a crop of promising youngsters on the brink of making their mark is beginning to look a little tired. scots595.jpg
Callum Davidson and Kris Commons feel the pain in Oslo

I have seen a fair bit of Scotland recently, including their last match - the 4 - 0 drubbing in Oslo. George Burley saw that game turn on the decision to send off Gary Caldwell before half time, but once Norway had scored, Scotland simply wilted against a Norwegian side which had previously failed to win a single game in the group.

As a result they need to beat Macedonia and the Dutch at Hampden to have any chance of a play-off match with qualification as the prize. I just can't see that happening. The exploits against France under Walter Smith and Alex McLeish seem a long time ago now.

True, the SFA had little choice but to end the international careers of Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor, but the decision did nothing to help a squad which was already painfully short on quality.

The knives are well and truly out for George Burley in the press and I cannot see him surviving - the decision to leave James McFadden out in Oslo was baffling, some of his substitutions questionable and the result almost terminal.

That leaves Northern Ireland, who have got themselves into a wonderful position. They play in Poland this weekend knowing that they could still win the group, and that second place and a play-off is a very real possibility.

I travelled to Belfast earlier this week to interview some of the players before their flight to Chorzow in the south of Poland. The mood was excellent; they seem to be a closely bonded group with a very real sense of being on the verge of something remarkable.

Many of the squad either play in the Championship or sit in the reserves in the Premier League, which makes their success all the more admirable.

Nor is just about one man now. David Healy might not agree, but the fact the goals are being spread among the group must be a good thing.

Their problem is that two of their remaining games are away - Poland first and the Czech Republic next month - with a home game against group leaders Slovakia in between. At Windsor Park, Nigel Worthington has five wins and a draw from six competitive games as manager, so a win over Slovakia is essential.

If Northern Ireland can somehow win in Poland or Prague they may yet join England in South Africa next summer - and that would make them my team of the year.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Lets hope for Northern Irelands sake that Rodoslaw Majewski is not playing for the poles. He has been awesome so far this season!

    However, I wish all the home nations well despite being English!
    Good luck N.Ireland!

  • Comment number 2.

    PS and my girlfriend is Polish!

  • Comment number 3.

    Shame Wales always get such tough groups, had they been in group B (Greece, Switzerland and so on) they might have done ok.

    I've never seen them in a major competition.

  • Comment number 4.

    ...would imagine Rep of ireland have a better chance of qualification than NI. They have made good progress under Trapatonni-pity you didn't mentioned them in your post above...

  • Comment number 5.

    this articles so good you should have posted the first two paragraphs twice :)

  • Comment number 6.

    Thats because the Rep of Ireland are not a home nation!

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't see both Northern Ireland & Rangers players Kyle Lafferty and Steven Davis being too happy as being described in this blog as " Celts" lol C'mon, the Ulstermen !

  • Comment number 8.

    ...would imagine Rep of ireland have a better chance of qualification than NI. They have made good progress under Trapatonni-pity you didn't mentioned them in your post above...

    So ROI is a home nation now?

  • Comment number 9.

    I'd love to see the Repulbic of Ireland make it to the World Cup Finals in 2010, but they are not one of the 'home' nations so it was entirely appropriate that they were not mentioned in this article.

    Wouldn't it be great if both NI and the Republic were there?

  • Comment number 10.

    Andyof, the article is about the home nations.

  • Comment number 11.

    N. Ireland doesn't like to think of itself as "Celtic".

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm Welsh and had zero expectations for this qualifying campaign after being drawn with Germany and Russia. It's so depressing but the fact remains that we do have such a young team and that if they develop like we all hope then we could put up a serious fight in the future, especially European Championship qualifiers since we'll have a much better chance there than the World Cup.
    I really hope Scotland or Northern Ireland manage to qualify, it's been too long. My first World Cup was 1998 and I still remember Scotland's fans and the Brazil opening game.. Them or NI qualifying will also mean that the media will have to focus on someone other than the England team 24 hours a day!!

  • Comment number 13.

    Northern Ireland - Celts whether they like it or not.

  • Comment number 14.

    Would be good to see N.Ireland at the finals, they do seem to be the better of the "home" nations excl England naturally.

    Would be crazy to see N.Ireland and ROI drawn together (if possible???) after all Darren Gibson opted for the Republic over the North! Wonder how that would go down if he played!

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm sorry, but I don't really care if Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland qualify or not. I'm sure their supporters feel the same way about England.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nice blog, made a good read.
    Like one of the posters above, i really hope one of the other home nations makes it to SA 2010, despite being English.

    Good luck guys!

  • Comment number 17.

    Andyof said..."would imagine Rep of ireland have a better chance of qualification than NI. They have made good progress under Trapatonni-pity you didn't mentioned them in your post above"...

    In all fairness to Andyof..the title of the blog was "Northern Ireland carry Celts' qualifying hopes" not Home Nations qualifying hopes

  • Comment number 18.

    As a Welsh fan and one of the very few still turning up at the Millennium - 'tired old mantra' is overstating it a bit, but there's hope. Before I start, let's note that Tosh hasn't achieved much - we've sunk in the rankings and haven't even threatened to qualify under him.

    Early on, Tosh split the supporters with his aggressive, abrasive almost arrogant leadership and the disrespectful way he scrapped some key members of Hughes' squad. He always attacked Hughes' team early on for their unimaginative direct play (fair comment but Hughes had results) and defended himself by building a young team - us fans had to at least hold judgement. For myself, although I didn't like the arrogance and disrespectful attitude toward a well liked manager, I agreed that the younger players had been neglected as Hughes kept turning to Speed, Hartson, Giggs, Penbridge and even Barnard even in the final matches.

    However, five years on all this seems to be coming back to bite Tosh as he slowly realises that there are severe limits on how and who Wales can play - his possession based passing game doesn't work - we're toothless going forward and can't keep possession outside our own half - we haven't the background or the technical talent do build from the back that way. We can't play 5-3-2 as we haven't any world class wingbacks - Bale offered hope but he's a long way to go - Ricketts/Gunter/Eardly are solid at best but will never skip past fullbacks. Also, the age of the wingback is probably over - teams are too fit all over nowadays and the extra workload on top of fullback duties is too much. Tosh's refusal to play a big man up top and concentrate on Bellamy is fine against weaker nations, but he'll never score enough for us to challenge bigger teams.

    He's failed on a personal level with many players as well - Danny Collins has never played under him (Sunderland's player of the year last year), John Oster, Savage, Earnshaw have all either been ignored or badly used.

    But over the years he's sidled back into a Hughes type model. Toshack pioneered the 4-2-3-1 in Spain but everything he's tried for Wales has failed, except one system and one style - simple, humping it up the park.

    After embarrassing performances culminating in the abysmal home defeat to Finland, he set his team up like Hughes would - big man up front and plenty of direct balls thrown in to a system that looks to get the ball forward quickly. The performance against Germany 3 days after Finland was a world away - threatening, exciting and combative.

    Looking at his team now he has Ched Evans/Sam Vokes/Earnie up top, Collison/Ramsey/Allen/Davies/Edwards/Koumas and Cotterill in the middle and Collins/Gabbidon(if ever fit)/Bale/Williams/Morgan/Nyatanga and Gunter at the back and 3 top keepers in Hennessey/Price and Fon Williams (awesome prospect).

    This is probably the best looking side we've had for 30 years. I think, despite his failings, Tosh has also come round to the best set-up and style of play for Wales. Brian Flynn would be his natural successor who likes to play a fast passing game with direct attacks and has a great relationship with the players (he brought most of them through the U-21 setup).

    Tosh said Judge me on 2010 - he'd failed by then, but I think he's starting to get it right. If he can just get over himself and his own pretentions about how football should be played - we could be on the verge of a golden era for Welsh football.

    That's my view though I'm stupid enough to go see them.

  • Comment number 19.

    Going to be a tough ask and as you quite rightly point out, a win at home to Slovakia is essential.

    This group has been crazy - all 5 teams taking points off each other and hammering San Marino as expected. With only a few games to go NI could still finish 1st-5th.

    I'll be praying for a point in Poland on Sat which woud be a great result and one which we've managed to get before the last time Poland were in our group.

    PS - Hope the ROI get there as well

  • Comment number 20.

    at least half of northern ireland always want the english to qualify the british half that is. not the celts

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't understand it.

    Scotland get a ridiculously tough group (Both the world cup finalists and Ukraine) for the Euro 2008 campaign and miss out by the skin of their teeth.

    By comparison our World Cup qualifying group should have been a stroll to second place and we've completely ******ed it up.

  • Comment number 22.

    15. At 3:54pm on 04 Sep 2009, The Marvellous Mechanical Mouth Organ wrote:
    I'm sorry, but I don't really care if Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland qualify or not. I'm sure their supporters feel the same way about England.

    I might be a Northern Ireland fan, but I'll be watching Englands friendly before hand on Saturday, and will support them in South Africa as always, unless they come up against the Green and White army

  • Comment number 23.


    you don't have to care at all, thats your perogative. But this is the BBC not the EBC so its only proper to have some comment on the other home nations. Even if it is a totally inadequate amount.

  • Comment number 24.

    at least half of northern ireland always want the english to qualify the british half that is. not the celts

    I think you'll find that they are celts too(having descended from scots) you numpty.

  • Comment number 25.

    woeful blog by the usual arrogant english media pundit who thinks he knows it all.

    You proclaim to not know a great deal, or only seen 'some' games, so you really can't comment on the rest of the home nations.

    You stick to overestimating england and bomb out in the quarters as usual

  • Comment number 26.

    I have supported Northern Ireland for years and even managed to follow them all the way to Spain in 1982. I have no problem being referred to as a Celt!

  • Comment number 27.

    Geography does'nt lie, they're Celts

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    To be honest I dont understand all this UK vs Home nations vs Celts stuff. Can anyone disagree with the fact that all international championships would be better with ALL the home nations present (however unlikely that would be). Just think of the banter that could be had then!

    I would like to see all the home nations qualify though, other than england (who will definitely qualify), I think N.Ireland have the best chance.

    Ill still be cheering on the Rebuplic though!

  • Comment number 30.

    I cant believe some of the posts that are being allowed to be posted here (with some posters bordering on sectarianism) when I had a post refused for suggesting that Michel Platini may not have the greatest liking for the english premiership!

    What the deuce?!

  • Comment number 31.

    Wales do have a promising crop of youngsters but they're not going to SA primarily because:
    1) The Welsh FA have yet to realize that JT is a relic of a bye-gone era. He has managed to alienate more players than guests at Fawlty Towers. He'd play five defenders against a team from the Blind School as he's so afraid of losing.
    2) The Welsh public (of whom I am one) has had their expectations dumbed
    down so much that losing by the odd goal in one against mediocre opposition is somehow considered a victory.

    Go NI...

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.


  • Comment number 34.

    Read your History Books, and don't listen to political tall-tales - it's reckoned about 90% of the population of the Republic of Ireland are NOT true Celts, so I'm sure N Ireland, Scotland & Wales would be similar!
    Good Luck to all the Home Nations!

  • Comment number 35.

    15. At 3:54pm on 04 Sep 2009, The Marvellous Mechanical Mouth Organ wrote:
    I'm sorry, but I don't really care if Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland qualify or not. I'm sure their supporters feel the same way about England.

    You're quite right MMMO. When asked why I don't support England I always explain that it's simply because I'm NOT English and have no more reason to back them than I do Sweden or Mali.

    Norn Iron are the only hope at this point, because sadly I expect Scotland to lose both remaining matches.

  • Comment number 36.

    The Northern Irish football supporters/team Celts? I wouldn't say that too loudly. Aren't they mostly Anglo-Saxons living in a land robbed from native Celts?

  • Comment number 37.

    Phew, I finally waded through all those political comments about Celts, supporting England (wtf??!?!) and the bitterness.

    I think it's going to be hard for us to qualify. Clearly we're punching above our weight as Steve points out. It's down to the team spirit. It proves that you don't have to have the best of players to win anything. Which is probably why England haven't done anything decent since, well we all know when since we're constantly reminded at every turn. :-)

    But fellow fans, we can also be accused of dining out on beating Spain in Valencia and of course doing the English at Windsor Park. So let's not throw stones at that glass house.

    England and ROI got comparatively easy groups so you would expect them to qualify. If we don't at least we can move the the rankings and maybe get an easier group next time. So if we don't qualify, we can still benefit from finishing 3rd.

    I really hope we qualify - would be great to go to a finals again...

  • Comment number 38.

    "England and ROI got comparatively easy groups ..."

    Compared to what? Poland? Czech Rep?, Slovakia, Slovenia?

    Enlgand got Croatia and Ukraine, both excellent sides, and Ireland got Italy and Bulgaria. I would also rate Montenegro as as tough a proposition as Poland or Slovakia, and they are much better than todays Slovenia team.

    N.I got placed into a group packed with mediocrity, one from which they will not qualify.

  • Comment number 39.

    You wouldn't expect England to 'throw it away' now. I hope to see both Northern Ireland and Scotland with us in South Africa but feel it is a long shot. Northern Ireland have the better shot but it will be hard to go to Poland and Czech and Scotland to come away with maximum points at home - here is hoping though.

  • Comment number 40.

    im a scot and really hope we'll qualify tomorow same goes for northern ireland and england unlucky to wales thou maybe 2012 euros eh, if we dont qualify but the others do i will be supporting them in the tournament and will want them to do well in it

  • Comment number 41.

    republic of ireland arent a home nation so shudnt worry about them come on the green and white army england already there

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for your comments - interesting as always.

    Just to let you know that thheadlines on the blogs are not written by the authors of the articles - so please don't blame me for those from the north of Ireland being described as Celts!

    Glad that's cleared that up. Let's try to keep the subject to football rather than politics/relgion/history .........


  • Comment number 43.

    I love the fact that people still don't know who the home nations are! :-) Yes the title of the article is "Northern Ireland carry celts qualifying hopes" but if you read the first line which says "It's been more than a decade since any home nation other than England qualified for a major tournament." it means home nations only!
    Rep of Ireland qualified for the 2002 World Cup (they got to the last 16)- i.e. they are not part of the UK and so are not a home nation so no home nations have got to a finals of a major tournament since 1998- Scotland.

    Sorry about the rant but this winds me up- we all live in the UK and either people don't read the article properly or they didn't do very well at geography at school?

    Anyways back to the footy- I support all the home nations despite being English as we are also British and like to see us all at the finals. I think this is the best I have seen from England since 2001/2002 season so I hope we can at least get past that quarter final stage at the finals!
    Also N.Ireland were so close for the Euros last year they seem to be improving all the time as a team and work so hard for each other, I hope they make it...Scotland should take a leaf out of their book and learn how to create a unified team who work well together and get results. As for Wales they are so far away from ever qualifying it will be many years before you see a Welsh team at a major finals.
    PS. Bring on the World Cup next year :-)

  • Comment number 44.

    neath55 (31.)
    Agree with both your points and I'd still welcome a change of manager (for Flynn) but I think Tosh has finally realised how to play.

    Good point about expectations - Tosh is vicious toward anyone who suggests wales could do well - that annoys me - always talking the team down, saying we're not good enough and that the opposition is always better.

    Tosh's failings seem to be personal - unable to work with certain players (in my opinion - it's the job of a manager to work with everyone - if he can't, he's a bad manager - he's paid to manage players), pretentions regarding how the game should be played, delusions of being a footballing dighety, constant dour negative defetism and stubborness.

    Though behind all that - he's a very capable manager - if only he can get over himself.

    In essence I agree with you but I want to think it can get better

    (should we take this discussion to another comment page? It's all getting a bit nasty with the NI)

  • Comment number 45.

    NI are well placed but won't qualify, what a shame... I find it however really sad that any article that involves NI boils down to accusational rantings. I'm Irish, from the North and would want any Irish team to qualify. It's a real shame that others would rather their celtic brothers from the same island lose out because of their own prejudice.

    I'm really dissappointed by wales, for me they always look to have a half decent team and some good quality in key areas... throughout the years this has been the case, but they just can't seem to get it together in qualifying, a bit like in England in the finals who get there and then blow it. this could be the best chance for England to win a major international for some time. Under Capello they look very impressive and more than that, they look like they have belief. Here's hoping we all have something to smile about after the weekend.

  • Comment number 46.

    Home nations need to unite to have any chances in international football. A GB team might be more respected by other nations.

  • Comment number 47.

    I can see Scotland beating Macedonia and Holland but still not qualifying for the World Cup. Bring in Graeme Souness.

  • Comment number 48.

    Hi all,

    Just so there's no confusion or controversy, we have amended the headline to remove mention of Celts. Back to the footy chat.


  • Comment number 49.

    A GB team would more than likely have more english players than any other nationality, in fact how many not english players would make the starting 11 of such a team?

  • Comment number 50.

    no team GB chat please - it's all been done before - this is a forum on NI, Scotland and Wales - some want to include RoI.

  • Comment number 51.

    What about an all Ireland team??, I'm sure Johnny Evans, David Healy, Aaron Hughes and Chris Brunt would easily make the Republic team!

  • Comment number 52.

    Wouldn't it be great if both NI and the Republic were there?
    It'd be even better if they got each other in the play-offs!

  • Comment number 53.

    Cracking article.
    I for one hope at the begining of each qualifying campaign that all the home nations and eire qualify. Unfortunately, the problem is the lack of qualifying in the previous major comps. as a consequence, home nations, exc england, are never a seeded team, meaning that they will always be up against countries that are seeded, usually teams with far greater strength in depth.
    My opinion is that the influx of foreign players and owners is actually decreasing the strength for all but england, as the players, as noted in the article, all end up playing their football in the lower divisions/reserves. as a result, the only real quality they experience are the qualifiers, leaving them unprepared for the pace and quality they face.
    the sooner the number of foreign players in our domestic leagues reduces, the better for the national teams of our neighbours.

  • Comment number 54.

    Bit harsh on George Burley in that piece Steve, with the weak squad that Scotland have got for it, assuming they beat maccedonia, to come down to them needing 3 points for a play off is not too bad a situation. George Burley, despite his languid persona, has not done too bad a job.

  • Comment number 55.

    "That would have seemed almost unthinkable through what was perhaps a golden age of the 80s when Scotland and Northern Ireland frequently played alongside the English on the world stage."

    Don't you mean England and Northern Ireland frequently played alongside Scotland on the World Stage?? It was Scotland after all who qualified for 5 consecutive Finals in this golden age, not England.

  • Comment number 56.

    Good luck to Northern Ireland I hope they take part in Team GB in the olympics 2012 they have some usefull players.
    The Welsh and the Scots have made it clear they do not want to take part in 2012. Their choice but is this to do more with the fact they do not have any quality players or is it the old "dont want to play with England"
    Scotland and Wales have a massive shortage of talent they need to look at the quality of football they play in their domestic games.

  • Comment number 57.

    bigbusterfromglynn - 90% if the ROI are not Celts...ha ha never have I heard such drivel. Considering our national language came from the Celts that would make us desecendants of them. If you read up on the Celts please do:

    No mention of the ROI in the article considering we have a tough enough group, a new manager and coming off the back of the disasterous reign of Stan - some dues need to paid to the way Trappatoni has gone about getting us into the position we are in.

  • Comment number 58.


    Out of those players Jonny Evans only would. The rest are of the same standard. Healy has being shown up at the top level of the game but does a great job for NI and fair play to him.

  • Comment number 59.

    ArmchairDave, comparatively easy group for ROI...

    As I mentioned above a new manager and coming off the back of the disasterous reign of Stan - some dues need to paid to the way Trappatoni has gone about getting us into the position we are in.

  • Comment number 60.

    Isn't it a shame that so many posters have to turn up on a football blog spewing politically motivated nonsense. I am massively excited about being in the position of possibly being able to qualify (as a NI fan) and I couldn't give a monkeys if I am a Celt, and Ulster Scot or an Anglo Saxon. What has that got to do with anything? True fans wouldn't be going on about that kind of thing.

    While I realise that we have a massive uphill task to qualify, given our away record is pretty poor, I remain ever hopeful that I could witness NI in the first finals I can properly remember. It would be totally awesome, but as I realist I think we will probably miss out in the end.

    For a load of years the NI team was awful, no talent, no interest, but when Mr Sanchez took charge something changed and we are still benefiting from it. I think we have realised that we will never be able to compete through technique, so we play to our strengths, being physically strong, always working as a unit while doing our best to stop the opposition getting into their game (like Wimbeldon used to do to an extent). Plus we have such a great atmosphere at home it makes every match feel like a carnival and quite intimidating for other teams. Northern Ireland has always had a good record against good teams, so that does give me some hope for the games coming up, but my head tells me we will lose our away games.

    It would be great to see all teams from the British Isles qualify, but realistically it will be England and maybe ROI. If that is the case I will support both teams, as I am not a moronic biggot who can't seperate football from politics.

    Come on Norn Irn, the greatest wee team in the world!

  • Comment number 61.

    It seems that the vast majority of people wouldn't know a Celt if they ever met one.
    The Celts were pushed to the fringes of Britain and Ireland by the Romans and almost wiped out by the English, the few that survived have, like most other fringe groups, had their blood watered by most other races.
    There are probably less than 100,000 'true Celts' left and these in outlying communities that keep themselves to themselves.

    As for the rest of the article, good luck to all home nations, though I doubt that at 34, I'll ever witness Wales or Scotland in another major event, they don't seem to have the talet and even when they do, they'll bottle it.

  • Comment number 62.

    p.s We're not Brazil we're Northern Ireland!

  • Comment number 63.

    The Celtic "Nations" are as follows:

    Isle of Man
    Brittany (France)

    If you're in that list, your a celt. If you aint in the list, you cant come in.

  • Comment number 64.

    Hi Pat Feet - you say "Don't you mean England and Northern Ireland frequently played alongside Scotland on the World Stage?? It was Scotland after all who qualified for 5 consecutive Finals in this golden age, not England."

    Did England qualfiy for both World Cups in the 1980s? - yes
    Did Scotland? yes
    Did N.Ireland - yes

    Thats why I called the 1980s a golden age for the home nations. The 70s were perhaps a golden age for the Scots when (or perhaps because) England were not qualifying - but hardly a golden age for the home nations.

  • Comment number 65.


    I rate Chris Brunt well above the likes of Glen Whelan and Keith Andrews. I was very impressed with Brunt last year for WBA and he would be in my team ahead of those two.

    Also Aaron Hughes would be a dead cert for right back or left back ahead of McShane any day....

  • Comment number 66.

    At 7:10pm on 04 Sep 2009, The Midland 20 wrote:
    The Celtic "Nations" are as follows:

    Isle of Man
    Brittany (France)

    If you're in that list, your a celt. If you aint in the list, you cant come in.


    and lets not forget Galicia in Spain..

  • Comment number 67.

    akaZezinho and 5forkeeps, I would also argue that Stevie Armando Davis would have a shot at a starting slot in an all ireland team and potentially George Macartney and in a few years Lafferty. But I am very happy with having an Northern Ireland team in its own right.

    Someone mentioned Darren Gibson choosing to play for ROI earlier, that was a shame as I am sure he would have been a NI regular, but the biggest miss we have had due to folk playing for the ROI must be Shay Given, he would have been very useful for NI!

    I saw a change is coming to the rules around eligibility that lets people play for a nation if they spent 5 years or more at school there, does anyone know of any players that could qualify for NI as a result of that rule?

    We can always do with more options!

  • Comment number 68.

    Northern Ireland since the days of Lawrie Sanchez have finally progressed. We have some great players despite them not playing for premiership clubs. We beat Engaland One nil at Windsor Park against a full strength England team, Then Spain and Sweden were also well beaten by NI. It is exciting times that we may actually qualify for a major tornament. The Irish league is not as wealthy as England's lower tiers, an example being Peter Thompson was sold to Stockport for 100K and he was probably the best striker in the league.

    Whilst it is nice to see Engoland fans wishing us well, most of us from Northern Ireland do not return the favour. We are fed up of hearing how England are actiually the best team in the world (7th if you check the ratings) and would you all please be quiet about 1966, it was a long time ago, yet you all go back to it again and again.

    from a greeen and white army fanatic!

  • Comment number 69.


    Shay Given is from Lifford in County Donegal in the Republic, which granted is on the border separated by a bridge pretty much with Northern Ireland still in the Republic though

    But i take your point on Stevie Davis who is class, in fairness both countries could put together a fairly decent team internationally.

    If the rugby team can be all Ireland, why can't soccer be the same??

  • Comment number 70.

    to reply to post 52

    Yes it would be great, though i imagine the security forces would be dreading it!!! I think if that were to happen NI would be favourites to win, especially at Windsor park.

  • Comment number 71.

    at post 69

    Do you remember the 30 year troubles? that was because the IRA wanted a united ireland. northern Ireland as a football team is supported by mostly protestant people. The Republican/Catholic community usually supports the ROI. Do you see the problem? The protestant supporters would not be happy with an all ireland football team. As for Rugby, nobody is really that bothered, and secterianism is harder to find within the game but in the irish league I advise you to go and watch a linfield/glentoran(protestant teams) verus Cliftonville or Donegal Celtic(catholic teams) match. I expect you would have many unwelcome additions to your vocabulary

  • Comment number 72.


    I'm 22 so thats all before my time. I totally get your point though, I do have family both sides of the border and not really an issue i'll support both teams and they do likewise.

    I would still like to see it happen though.

  • Comment number 73.

    it is a shame, but its better really, it means there are 22 places for Irish(north or south) to fill. population of england is 60 million and they only have 11! its more beneficial really also, plus both teams cope well. If it aint broke, dont fix it.

  • Comment number 74.

    67. At 7:31pm on 04 Sep 2009, crozierandrew wrote:

    "Someone mentioned Darren Gibson choosing to play for ROI earlier, that was a shame as I am sure he would have been a NI regular, but the biggest miss we have had due to folk playing for the ROI must be Shay Given, he would have been very useful for NI! "

    Why would you make a comment like this? Everybody knows that Shay Given was born in Donegal. Why would you post this?

  • Comment number 75.


    It must be an urban legend that Given is from the North then, I was always told he ways. He would have been good anyway.

    I wouldn't really be up for an all Ireland team, I consider myself as British so a GB team would resonate more with me. But to be honest I would not fancy either as I am Northern Irish and happy with that.

    I see people have said above that NI fans are protestants and because fans of Irish league clubs still have sectarian problems then NI are the same. I have to disagree with this to an extent, as in recent years the level of sectarianism at Windsor has dropped massively, and the atmosphere has become much more inclusive. I know plenty of catholic folk who support NI and I think everyone is welcome these days. I think the Neil Lennon incident was a turning point of sorts. No doubt there are still morons about, but these days we all seem to be having too much of a good time to worry about all that rubbish.

  • Comment number 76.


    Because I genuinely thought it was true, whats the big deal?

  • Comment number 77.

    worry about all that rubbish?

    Remember the recent shooting of soldiers as they waited for a pizza? do you remember the Portadown boss getting a bullet in the post? those are just two recent examples. I do not agree with people that do this, but there are still issues, and i dont know if it will ever stop. certainly the problem is reducing, we can only hope it stops.


  • Comment number 78.

    I am specifically referring to the atmosphere in NI games in Windsor having much less sectarianism that I remember in previous years. I am not referring to any activity outside of the game. That should have nothing to do with football of any kind never mind NI games.


  • Comment number 79.

    Did you know that George Burley's Scotland team (v Norway) finished the game with four full backs, three midfielders and two strikers - what a tactical genius he is.... I wait in anticipation for our starting line up against Macedonia on Saturday, maybe he's go all out with a 3-3-4 formation.

  • Comment number 80.

    Too much political rubbish in these posts for my liking. Good article by Steve, and to add my 2 cents to it I think England will qualify (obviously) and ROI will as well. As a NI fan I don't think we will go through, nor will Wales or Scotland. GAWA!

  • Comment number 81.

    George Burley should never have been appointed in the first place!! That may sound as though Im saying it in hindsight but I said it from day one. As a Celtic fan, I went to EVERY Scotland match under Alex McLeish and Walter Smith. Scotland looked great, fearless even. They went into matches believing they could win them, no matter who the opposition was. Fand were up for every match and there was an excitement back among the fans... That seems a long time ago now...
    I have never been to a Scotland game under George Burley, and the only reason for that is that Scotland don't look like a team anymore. When that qualifying group was drawn, everyone in the country believed we could get to the play-offs, at the very least. It seems as though the Tartan Army will have to wait some more to get to a major finals again.
    Mr Strachan... are you interested???

  • Comment number 82.

    Just my ideal Irish team, just a bitta fun, no disrespect intended

    Hughes, Dunne, Evans, O'Shea
    McGeady, Brunt, Davis, Duff
    Healy, Keane

    A mighty good team I think, regardless of nationality/alliegance.

  • Comment number 83.

    Seems to be 2 coversations going on here.So here's my say on both.Regarding the subject of Celts.There is no evidence that Celts ever settled on this island at all,It is an 18th century idea that for some reason has caught on.
    More importantly Who will qualify.Scotland actually played ok vs Norway until they scored and then for some reason they completly imploded.A victory over Macedonia is more than possible,deal with that first then look at the Dutch
    Wales.Have a crop of youngsters ,but so do everyone else.Having young players does not mean they will improve on what is currently avaliable.
    One day there will be a crop of very talented players that will all come along at one time as is the way with the smaller footballing nations ,but until then it will be more of the same.
    N I have done well but will not qualify.
    Like a lot of people ,I would love to see all the home nations qualify one day ,so good luck to all in Euro 12 qualifyers

  • Comment number 84.

    Post 33 ulsterger09
    Cant find many people now proclaiming to be standing up, can you?
    says it all really

  • Comment number 85.

    @18 Owain

    3 top keepers in Hennessey/Price and Fon Williams (awesome prospect).

    Myhill is better than all of these. How can you leave him out?

  • Comment number 86.

    why would northern ireland fans care if darren gibson lined up against them.. sure would he not be warming the bench in the northern ireland team behind davis and mccann anyway?

  • Comment number 87.

    Bit harsh on Wales, Steve. The only game where they have dropped 'winnable' points was at home to Finland. They stood no chance against Germany and Russia - but again to their credit lost narrowly in Moscow and Mönchengladbach.

    As for Scotland, second place is by no means a playoff place - especially with that awful goal difference. I have a funny feeling that Norway could play the trump card and end up snatching second spot from both Scotland and Macedonia.

    Would love Northern Ireland to qualify and really hope they pull it off. They were so close for Euro 2008 and I hope they qualify for the big stage. Especially for their fans! This is a really good chance for them. Could do with the game in Bratislava ending up a draw on Saturday night.

  • Comment number 88.

    vidas_gonna_getya says "Celtic nations are
    Isle of Man
    Brittany (France)and lets not forget Galicia Spain"

    If you're in that list, your a celt. If you aint in the list, you cant come in." -- this according to : vidas_gonna_getya

    But also,vidas_gonna_getya, if you refer to Spain you SHOULD ALSO include Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, and even Navarra. Asturias is traditionally true 'Celt' Spain with the same legitimacy as Galicia (sea tradition, bagpipes, own former language, Romans and Moors never arrived there etc.) ; Cantabria during the last twenty years are remenbering every facet of their very well documented celtic past - just visit the town of Santillana to see that; and the Basque Country (+ Navarre) - whilst not authentic Celtic as such - are none-the-less pretty enthusiastic of all their British Isles links (especially those of the English South Coast and Irish connections due above all to fishing mutual interests, plus traditional music folk similarities). Navarra especially well proud of accordion tradition on a par to Scottish accordionists, and the accordion rates even above the flute, piano, violin etc.!!!.

    So you see the Celtic force is truly alive in NORTH WEST Europe!!!!!!!


  • Comment number 89.

    You have to love the irony of someone from the RoI complaining that they arent mentioned on the BRITISH Broacasting Corporation. I'm from Northern Ireland, with a Scottish heritage, so you can call me a Celt all day if you want. The Celts in Ireland had one thing in common with today, because they also segmented the country in two, North and South around the level of Dublin. A united Ireland is a political myth. Never has been, never will be.

  • Comment number 90.

    Fair criticism on Wales- we have by far the most difficult group of the home nations, as is usually the case due to our low ranking.
    Last night, however, we totally outplayed Italy U-21's in Swansea, beating them 2-1. Our u-21's have never been so strong, we have a young team which if directed carefully should qualify and do well in an international tournament.

  • Comment number 91.

    Wow...delusional Steve Wilson strikes again! -what a quirky world you live in!

    How different this article would read if the original point of reference was the last 9 world cups and not the last 7!!

    Then, England and Scotland would have BOTH qualified for 6 each! And, also compare England with their peer group like Germany and Italy rather than Scotland and Northern Ireland!!!

    England's qualification record is 6 out of the last nine world cups, while Germany and Italy are 9 each. Also, both of the latter have won the world cup, while England did not.

    There is no doubt that Scotland are going through a rough patch, as England did in 1974 and 1978...but to use England as a comparison for the Scottish blues, is very cheap.

    Also, why not compare England with France, Germany, Spain and Italy - then a reality check takes hold!!!

    Balanced British articles please.

  • Comment number 92.

    at least half of northern ireland always want the english to qualify the british half that is. not the celts

    I think you'll find that they are celts too(having descended from scots) you numpty.

    I don't think that is the case - I hate to burst your bubble but hardly anyone in Northern Ireland supports England. I am from Norn Iron and would be classed as the "british" half - I don't know anyone who supports England through the qualification campaign (apart from my uncle who's actually english!). There are a few glory hunters (5%) who would actually cheer on England as for the rest of us we only care about our wee country and couldn't give a stuff about England.

    In fact as go as far to say that nearly everyone in Norn Iron love to see England lose - the media coverage of them is riduculous and Scotland Wales and ourselves are totally overlooked - making this a rare article - watch football focus today and you'll probably see 45 mins of England and 5 each for the rest of us.

  • Comment number 93.

    Can I just start by apologising to any English/sane Brits out there regarding my fellow countrymen’s (Scots) rants over the whole Celts/NI thing. I presumed the article referred to the race of the Celts who populated Ireland, Wales and Scotland rather than the cringing assumption about Celtic football club (who have had NI players by the way). I promise we are not all numpties north of the border.

    Secondly, good blog. I would give three months salary to see Scotland qualify and really when you look at our group second place should have been the most likely outcome. Still, there is a very faint glimmer of hope.

    Finally, can I just respond to some of the posters who mention that the "other" home nations don't support England so why should they support them. I know people in the Celtic lands tend to want to see England loose but I think they forget that it is mainly down to football rivalry. In the same way that many Mancunians want Man U to fail in Europe or Tottenham fans want to see Arsenal get gubbed ever week. Local rivalries are part of what makes football special. It has nothing to do with racial hatred and I am sure the Man U/Man City and Spurs/Gunners fans who give each other pelters over the games have a good laugh about it in the pub the next day. England should do the same with the other home nations. I am sure we can give as good as we get!

  • Comment number 94.

    Great blog!
    First of all, as a Scottish citizen - and keen Scottish supporter, good luck to Northern Ireland; their success story is remarkable given the player resources and if any home nation deserves to qualify, it has to be them. I thought they were extremely unlucky at the Euro qualifying campaign, after drawing some very tough teams but this time around, I am tipping them to qualify.

    Good luck to Scotland as well today. I am off to the game soon!

  • Comment number 95.




    Darron Gibson was from Londonderry / Derry and should not have been able to play for ROI at any stage and that was not the case!!

    Northern Ireland would be a stronger team if the ROI didn't try to poach all our catholic players playing the religon card.

  • Comment number 96.

    It's because under the terms of The Good Friday Agreement, people in NI have the right to Irish citizenship, British citizenship, or both.

    There seems to be a misconception among a lot of NI fans that the ROI is "poaching" Catholic players - they don't seem to realise that 90% of Catholics in the North grow up supporting the Republic. You just have to look at the treatment Artur Boruc got at Windsor there, and even look at where Windsor is located, to figure out why this might be so.

    I peronally support both, but if they played each other I would choose ROI (grew up supporting them)

  • Comment number 97.

    @ David_Y-M-C-A or whatever.

    Maybe Darren did'nt want to go through what Neil Lennon did. i.e getting death threats from so called "fans" because of his religion.

  • Comment number 98.

    "...would imagine Rep of ireland have a better chance of qualification than NI. They have made good progress under Trapatonni-pity you didn't mentioned them in your post above..."

    Pity were not a home nation... :) go to an Irish website if you want Irish Soccer :)

    I wish the North well and I think they have a good chance.

  • Comment number 99.

    To the people posting about the Northern plays playing for the Republic - under the Good Friday agreement Northerners are legally entitled to be either British OR Irish citizens, thats why he can play for the republic and theres nothing wrong with that.

  • Comment number 100.

    The notion of 'Celtic' nations was in fact a 13th century invention, made up for purely political purposes. It appears to have lasted...[YAWN]

    Good luck to NI and Eire, the only two nations from 'these islands' for want of a better phrase who have a chance of joining England in SA. The more the merrier, I say.


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