NIGEL Clough believes qualification for the 2018 World Cup would be fantastic for Matty Lund, Tom Flanagan and Liam Boyce.
The Burton Albion manager also believes that Boyce could force his way back into the national team setup when he is able to play again.
Lund and Flanagan have both been included in Northern Ireland’s squad as they prepare to face Switzerland in the World Cup play-offs. Victory over two legs, the first of which takes place tonight, for Michael O’Neill’s side would see them qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Clough says that the club will be hoping to see Northern Ireland qualify, but has stressed that the players involved must continue to perform for the Brewers if they are to make it to Russia next summer, should O’Neill’s side get there.
“We wish Matty Lund and Tom Flanagan all the best and we hope that they can get involved.
“I think that they will feel, when they go into the national squad, that Northern Ireland are not a fancied nation and if they do qualify, it will be an incredible achievement, a bit like us staying up.
“I think that everybody will be hoping that they qualify, but they are not nailed-on to be in the squad next summer if they do qualify, so it gives them extra incentive to keep working hard and playing well to try and reach a major championship.”
Club-record signing Boyce has 10 caps, and one goal, for Northern Ireland. The striker is currently out with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and will miss the majority of this season due to injury.
The Brewers boss believes that Boyce could be in with a chance of being included the Northern Ireland squad, should they qualify and he be fit to play, but has stressed that the striker will not be rushed back into playing.
“His (Boyce) recovery and rehabilitation is coming on extremely well at the moment. I haven’t spoken to Michael O’Neill and Northern Ireland, but if he does get himself available in April and they do qualify, then you would hope that he would be in with a chance of joining up with the squad, so that is more motivation for him in his recovery work.
“We do not want to say that he will be back early, we don’t want him pushing himself or thinking that he has to be back for a certain time to be picked in the summer, so we will let it take its course and we will be guided by the medical people and the surgeon who conducted the operation as to when he can come back, but everything is going as well as it possibly can.”