Northern Ireland fell at the last 16 stage yesterday as they were beaten 1-0 by Wales, not having a connection to the Ulster men, nor the Welsh, my main interest in the game was of course to see if Latics striker Will Grigg would finally get to kick a ball in anger at the Championships.
The answer to my query was no, Grigg didn’t get to kick a ball and spent the entire tournament sat on the bench. Which raises the next question, why was he taken along in the first place?
The Latics number 9 had a sensational season in League 1, banging home 28 goals to finish his club’s and the league’s top scorer, he didn’t play in any of the Northern Ireland qualifying games, being a bench warmer for the entire qualifying programme, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill used Norwich front man Kyle Lafferty to bludgeon his way through the games and his side was built around the big striker. So again why was Grigg taken?
In the final warm up game pre-tournament against Belarus Will Grigg came on as a sub in the 61st minute, his first appearance for his country since a friendly against Qatar in May 2015 a year earlier, Grigg scored a typical Grigg goal in the 88th minute, smashing home from eight yards, he had put his name in the frame for inclusion in the Northern Irish Euro Squad. Kyle Lafferty was a shoe-in, Conor Washington and Josh Magennis were also heavily tipped to be included and Grigg was added to the list to jet off to France.
It is understandable that O’Neill used Lafferty as his number one striker, after all the big man had led the line all the way through the qualifiers superbly, scoring important goals along the way as they finished top of their qualifying group, O’Neill played it cagey during the group stage of the finals playing to his sides strengths to ensure that they finished in a place that would see them through to the knockout phase, but in yesterday’s match against Wales it was a totally different scenario.
A goal down with 15 minutes remaining surely it was time to throw caution to the wind and go for broke? The Northern Ireland squad is certainly goal shy, despite finishing top of their qualifying group they scored just 16 goals from 10 games and when you consider that the Faroe Islands were in the group that isn’t a grand return. Kyle Lafferty and Conor Washington have three goals between them in 2016, in fact the three were all scored by Lafferty and were all for Northern Ireland, Will Grigg has 20 in the same period of time. So go for broke?
O’Neill decided to make a change and go for broke on 84 minutes, taking off defender Gareth McAuley he brought on the not at all prolific Josh Magennis who appeared to have been thrown into the mix for his ability to take a long throw rather than stick the ball in the net.
So our Will, despite being on fire, stayed on the sidelines and didn’t get a kick. It’s hard to argue with Michael O’Neill, he has done wonders for his country’s international standing, but his argument on why he didn’t use Grigg fell a little flat saying that the three in front of him ”have all played at a higher level”, that might be the case in Lafferty, but although both Magennis and Washington have featured in the Championship, Magennis 1 start and 8 subs, Washington 7 starts and 8 subs, neither have scored there.
Will Grigg is on fire, he deserves his chance, hopefully his international career will kick off during the World Cup qualifiers which begin on the 4th September!
Check out the latest PWU Podcast – Euro Special – Will Grigg’s On Fire
Join us for a pre Euro special.
We start off with a bit of Latics gossip and then it’s into the Euro’s.
Latics latest rumours, Alex Gilbey, Nick Powell and that’s about it, Walking Football cup final report, new kit – it’s just a kit, and do we need a new keeper?
We take a look at the Euro’s, favourites and also rans, where do England fit into that and we finish off with a bit of Vindaloo is on fire your arse is terrified.
The podcast can be listened to by clicking the embedded player below or downloaded to listen at you leisure by visiting www.buzzsprout.com