ALLY ROY believes Northern Ireland U21s have nothing to fear against Group 2 winners, Spain as they look to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Euro 2019 Finals tonight.
Derry City’s Scottish striker, who qualifies for N. Ireland through his grandfather who hails from Strabane, made his international debut in last week’s friendly against Luxembourg and is one of a number of new faces in Ian Baraclough’s squad.
He joins fellow Derry City teammate, Jamie McDonagh and ex-Candy Stripe, Rory Holden, now at Bristol City, who netted the winning goal in the 1-0 win at the Stade Émile Mayrisch in Thursday’s warm-up for the trip to Spain. Strabane’s David Parkhouse makes up the North West contingent while City right-back. Conor McDermott sits this one out through injury.
Roy admits he was shocked to receive his first international call-up but was ‘proud’ to make his U21 bow in that friendly victory as he now looks forward to testing himself against one of the best teams in world football.
“I never expected to get called up so soon but playing against Luxembourg was a very proud moment for me,” said the Airdrie native.
And while victory over the Spanish in Albacate would come as a major shock, Baraclough’s men need three points if they’re to keep pace with Slovakia and Iceland who they meet in a double-header next month and challenge for one of the four runners-up places which ensure a place in the Euro 2019 Finals next summer.
Given the Spanish cruised to a 5-3 win over N. Ireland at Windsor Park last March, it’s a major challenge but Roy is hoping the Group 2 winners become complacent given they have already qualified for the Finals.
“It’s going to be a hard game playing against Spain in the qualifiers,” predicted Roy. “Especially in Spain, it’s a big ask. They’re one of the biggest footballing nations in world football.
“They’ve been dominant for so many years and have some good young players coming through, boys who are playing for Real Madrid and teams like that.
“So it will be a good test and all the boys are looking forward to it. We don’t fear them and go into every game looking to get the maximum points we can. Hopefully they get complacent and we can catch them out. We’ve not come here to lie down. We want to get as many points as we can and qualify to the next stage.”