Norwood on brink of history with Northern Ireland squad

Oliver Norwood, front row extreme left, lines up for Northern Ireland against Romania  last year in a European Championship qualifier in Bucharest
Oliver Norwood, front row extreme left, lines up for Northern Ireland against Romania last year in a European Championship qualifier in Bucharest

The prospect of making history with Northern Ireland excites Burnley-born midfielder Oliver Norwood.

The Green and White Army haven’t qualified for a major tournament in the 24-year-old’s lifetime, but Michael O’Neill’s men are edging closer to booking the nation’s first ever place at the finals of a European Championships.

We can’t get too carried away but if we beat Romania then we can maybe start dreaming about it

Oliver Norwood

Valued at number 42 in FIFA’s World rankings, the Northern Irish face a top-of-the-table clash with Group F leaders Romania at Belfast’s Windsor Park tomorrow.

And victory would see Norwood and co, inclusive of Clarets defender Danny Lafferty, usurp Anghel Iordănescu’s Tricolorii at the summit.

After warming up for the fixture with a 1-1 draw against 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar at Crewe Alexandra’s Gresty Road, where Stuart Dallas’s opener was cancelled out by Karim Boudiaf, the Reading midfielder said: “It would be nice to be a part of history.

“I don’t think they’ve qualified for the European Championships so it would be nice to be a part of that history.

“We can’t get too carried away but if we beat Romania then we can maybe start dreaming about it. There’s still a long way to go.

“Hopefully we’ll win that game in June and two more wins after that should do it.

“We’d go top and if results went for us in other games it would put us in a really strong position.

“We’ll just concentrate on what we can control and that’s hopefully beating Romania.”

Billy Bingham was in charge the last time that Northern Ireland impacted on a competition.

In fact the nation’s last involvement in the latter stages culminated exactly 29 years ago when a 3-0 defeat to Brazil brought an end to their World Cup in Mexico.

“It’s very exciting and something that we’ve got to relish,” said Norwood, who has only missed 11 minutes of this spectacular campaign.

“There will be expectation and pressure that comes with it but we’ve got to embrace it.

“We’ve put ourselves in a strong position now and we’ve got to make sure that we capitalise on it.

“Qualifying hasn’t been spoken about. We’ve done the right thing by taking each game as it comes.

“We go in to each game as if we need to win it to get our first three points of the campaign. It’s worked well so far.

“The manager and staff have been fantastic around the lads and big Kyle (Lafferty) has come up with the goods so far. Hopefully he can carry on doing that.”

He added: “There’s a real togetherness in the squad and a real hunger to succeed.

“It’s in our hands and it would be criminal to throw it away now. We’re quietly confident that we can qualify. It would be unbelievable if the home nations get there.”