The intervening years have, to a degree, represented a prolonged assertion of the sentiment, on and off the field. There can be little doubt of Northern Ireland’s existence for the players, supporters and management of England, Spain, Sweden, Denmark or Poland. Our current rivals for qualification in Group 3 of the World Cup’s European section, are fully appraised of who we are and the formidable record which we have at Windsor Park.
Despite its hopeless mangling of the eligibility issue, FIFA knows we exist, and its website carries a lengthy article examining the success of Northern Ireland, over the last few years. The piece highlights our remarkable home form, which it attributes, in part, to the inhospitable surroundings at Windsor Park. Jonny Evans sums up the phenomenon, confirming that the players themselves share supporters’ suspicion that Europe’s pampered international superstars just ‘don’t fancy’ the cramped facilities and rain squalls gusting down from the Black Mountain,
“Sometimes it helps us if the opposition come here and get a bit of a culture shock. We definitely see it as a weapon.”
As the article confirms, the priority for Northern Ireland is now to consolidate leadership of Group 3, by adding some away points to the home form which has already been displayed. We will know in the autumn whether a few good results is to be the extent of the team’s success, or whether it can mount a serious challenge to go to South Africa.
Whether we qualify or not, this article provides more proof if it were needed. WE EXIST! And world football knows it.