No time for sentiment in international clash

Austin MacPhee
Austin MacPhee

Austin MacPhee says there will be no time for emotion when he steps into the dug-out at Hampden this evening.

MacPhee, known for his work in creating the ever expanding Cupar based AMsoccer set-up, is also a coach with the Northern Irish national team who face Scotland in a challenge match tonight at Hampden.

Scot MacPhee says sentiment will be put to one side as the anthems blare out at the national stadium as he focuses only on his job in helping the Northern Irish work towards a Euro 2016 place.

He said: “If you want progress your career you can’t always control who you work for and where you work.

“Michael has given me the opportunity to work at international level for Northern Ireland therefore I want to help them be successful.

“It is no different to when you work in club football - every little boy supported a team, mine was Dundee United, but when I worked for St Mirren I wanted to win.

“I don’t feel any emotion about the occasion, just looking at it practically as we build for Sunday.”

Like the Scots, the Northern Irish have made an impressive start to their qualifying campaign, taking nine points from four matches including wins in Hungary and Greece.

After the challenge match, MacPhee and the rest of the squad will turn their attention to another qualifier when they tackle Finland.

MacPhee says he can see similarities between the two countries.

“We are on a good run, like Scotland, and when you play another British Isles team you know what the game will be like in terms of how our footballing cultures allow the game to be,” he said.

“Friendlies are different, though, there are many things you want out of the game other than the result, although naturally winning is good and creates momentum and confidence.”

MacPhee met up with the side at the weekend after arriving back in the country from the USA where AMsoccer youngsters were being given coaching and playing against local sides.

A familiar face was there waiting for his arrival, after the Northern Irish Football Association recently appointed Cowdenbeath boss Jimmy Nicholl as assistant manager.

“I have known Jimmy since I was eight years old and he was the manager of Raith Rovers,” said the local coach.

“He was the first coach I had when I went to organised football training with the SFA.

“Since then our paths have crossed often.

“In opposing dugouts when I was at St Mirren and he was at Kilmarnock and then Hibs.

“He also did after dinner speaking at AMsoccer Club’s sportsman’s dinner.

“He has the experience from playing for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup, the last time they qualified.”

And as for a prediction on tonight’s scoreline?

“Who knows... that’s football,” he said.