Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Star Primed for Place Battle

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats Star Primed for Place Battle

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

Sunderland defender George McCartney admits he will be playing for his World Cup future when he lines up for Northern Ireland this evening for the first match of Lawrie Sanchez's Windsor Park regime.

But the ambitious 22-year-old is confident both he and Wearside team-mate Jeff Whitley can establish themselves as key players under the former Wycombe boss and ensure their involvement in a Group Six campaign which will include eagerly-anticipated home internationals against England and Wales.

The Irish have gone 1,242 minutes without a goal and Sanchez, confirmed as Sammy McIlroy's successor last month, is determined to revitalise an ailing side following their wretched Euro 2004 qualifying bid.

McIlroy was a great admirer of McCartney and made him a regular member of his team; but the Black Cats stopper is not taking anything for granted as he prepares for tonight's Belfast friendly with Norway.

"I was very disappointed when Sammy McIlroy left the job," admitted McCartney, who is poised to win his 15th senior cap against the Scandinavians.

"But everybody has got a clean slate now and it's up to all the players to prove what they can do.

"There will be three or four friendlies before the qualifiers start and we all have to impress. We have got to show we have got what it takes to play in the side because these games will go a long way to determining which is his (Sanchez's) best XI for the World Cup campaign.

"I'm taking nothing for granted because we have a lot of young players in the squad and everyone is looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers. We're all desperate to impress the new manager and earn the chance to play against England and Wales; Lawrie Sanchez will have his own views about which players he wants to rely on and games like this will give me a big chance to show him what I'm capable of. …

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