Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong calls for anthem debate

Gerry Armstrong believes the Irish FA should consider whether finding a new national anthem to replace God Save the Queen would encourage more nationalists to play for Northern Ireland.

Armstrong, capped 63 times, is the Irish FA's elite player mentor and says the issue has cropped up in recent conversations with prospective players.

"It is an issue which is sensitive to a lot of nationalist lads," he added.

A number of Northern Ireland-born players have declared for the Republic.

Part of Armstrong's brief in his IFA mentor role is to attempt to convince Northern Ireland-born players from the nationalist community not to switch their international allegiance.

"It (the anthem) was an issue that was brought up on several occasions and it's something that I am aware of," continued Northern Ireland legend Armstrong.

"It might have been a reason, maybe, why some of them didn't want to play for Northern Ireland.

"I do think it's something that needs to be talked about. Where it goes, I just don't know."

Armstrong has held informal discussions with Snow Patrol songwriter and Northern Ireland fan Gary Lightbody about the anthem issue.

"I know Gary Lightbody and it was a possible way out in terms of what we could do.

"We looked at the Scottish solutions and the Welsh situations where they have their own national anthems."

Armstrong, who comes from a nationalist background, acknowledged that the playing of God Save the Queen was "never" an issue for him during his Northern Ireland career.

"Or for a lot of other players and I don't see why it should be a major issue now.

"(But) It is an issue that has been raised by some - not by all."