Burnley defender Duff taking it one game at a time

Michael Duff in action against the Lions
Michael Duff in action against the Lions

LONG-SERVING Clarets defender Michael Duff is taking his club and international future one game at a time after linking up with Northern Ireland.

Duff, the stand-out Burnley performer in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Millwall, travelled to Belfast to join the Northern Irish squad for the first time in more than three years after being named in Michael O’Neill’s first panel of players.

He left with the Clarets’ play-off hopes in the air after a third defeat in four games,

And while Duff believes the side can still finish in the top six, he feels all focus must be on putting things right on his return at Watford on Saturday. He said: “It’s important we get that level of consistency back and stop looking too far ahead.

“We need to start winning games back-to-back again then we can start maybe looking further forward.

“There are 13 games left and if we win nine or 10 of them we’ll probably be in the play-offs; 74 points normally gets you there.

“Technically it’s still in our hands, but I think rather than looking ahead – can we get in the play-offs, can we not get in the play-offs?

“I think we need to have a reaction on Saturday, get three points and get on a run.”

In the meantime, Duff is honoured to receive a call-up for his country to face Norway at Windsor Park tomorrow night, and hopes to add to his 22 caps, the last of which came in 2008 against Hungary.

O’Neill is looking to rebuild ahead of a World Cup qualifying campaign, and Duff said: “I think it will be good.

“Because it came out of the blue I’ll go and enjoy it. It’s all fresh to me, essentially, being involved again.

“I know most of the lads anyway that will be involved so that makes it a little bit easier.

“I’m not expecting to go and play, but hopefully to be involved at this stage of my career is a nice little pep-up for me.

“I think he’s said he wants to keep a similar sort of nucleus together for the qualifying campaign, so he obviously sees that I can play for another couple of years yet, which is another little bonus for me.

“We’ll have to wait and see when the qualifiers start.

“But the first thing I can do is go and make an impression, train well and look after myself. If I get any game time I’ll try to do myself justice.”

The modern trend seems to be to retire from international football if you are out of favour, but Duff has always made himself available for his country.

He said: “I never retired, but I gave up thoughts of it a couple of years ago.

“I was playing every week in the Premier League and wasn’t getting picked.

“It’s one of those. But different managers have different thoughts and I’ll go and I’ll enjoy it.

“Whether I play or not I don’t know, but it’s a good bit of fun hopefully.”