Unless you’re a committed football fan this may have escaped your attention, but the Northern Ireland international team is in action on Wednesday night. I say the international team, but it’s more like the third string. Regular squad members have been dropping like flies ahead of our home friendly with Morocco.
It was ever thus with these types of matches and doubtless it gives the manager a headache. Still, there’s absolutely no excuse for his selection of Adam Barton, an English youngster who is eligible to play for Northern Ireland, but has yet to decide that that’s where his future lies.
Nigel Worthington has called Barton up, in his own words, “to sell Northern Ireland to him”.
Of all the witless decision the manager has made since taking over from Lawrie Sanchez, this is by far the worst, particularly bearing in mind the elgibility controversies which have blighted his reign. He is effectively inviting a player to give us a trial run in a friendly match. It debases the notion of an international cap irreparably.
What is to discourage another player, tempted to play for the breakaway association’s Republic team, from dipping his toe in the international pond with the original Ireland outfit, to see how he likes it? It opens the way for all sorts of abuses and it creates a precedent that such actions are perfectly ok by us.
Worthington stooped low when he recalled ‘Biggles’ McCartney, whose commitment to the team was such that he pulled out of an away friendly in Armenia, due to the country’s apparent proximity to Iraq. He stooped lower still when he selected Shane Duffy, after the player had communicated his intention to go elsewhere.
This is his lowest act yet. Awarding a cap to an uncommitted player, as an inducement to play for Northern Ireland.
The famous green shirt has never before been so thoroughly demeaned.