Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill is set to hand a surprise recall to legendary goalkeeper Pat Jennings as Northern Ireland start looking ahead to their first major tournament in thirty years.
Jennings, now 70 and an icon at former clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, was a mainstay in the Northern Irish side from 1964 to 1986, and took part in their three World Cup campaigns in the 1980s, but hasn’t played a competitive game since being dumped out of the 1986 tournament at the group stage.
O’Neill said: ‘While we’re delighted to have made it to the Euros, we know that the real hard work now begins. We can’t rest on our laurels, and have to call on all of our resources if we are to stand a chance of making it out of the group.
‘So I got hold of a list of all the registered players who are eligible to play for Northern Ireland, and discovered that Pat never actually retired from the game. Perhaps it was an oversight, an administrative cock-up. I can’t be sure. But I do know that we must take advantage of this, and at least see if he fancies a few games’.
The 46-year-old added: ‘Even though he’s in his seventies, Pat’s still got those massive hands, and I’m sure he’ll be able to get down to a couple of low shots every other game or so. Whatever, he’s certainly a better bet than either Michael McGovern or Roy Carroll. Seriously, they’re both hopeless’.
When questioned Jennings – who won 119 caps over his 22-year international career – said: ‘I don’t even do coaching anymore, so to say I’m not in the best shape would be something of an understatement. If I was 50, then perhaps I’d consider it. But I’m happy doing matchday hospitality at Spurs, and anyway, it’s not as if there’s a George Best in the side or anything. There isn’t even a David McCreery’.
In related news, O’Neill has enquired as to David McCreery’s availability.