Date:Sunday August 20 2006
Nottingham Forest's midfield playmaker Sammy Clingan is ready for a fight to keep his Northern Ireland shirt for good.
The 22-year old Belfast lad won his third cap on Wednesday evening during Northern Ireland's 2-1 friendly victory over Finland in the Olympic Stadium, Helsinki.
And now Clingan is all set to partner Aston Villa's wonder kid Steven Davis in the centre of midfield in the two opening European qualifying matches against Iceland and Spain.
Birmingham City skipper Damien Johnson, who has been one of Northern Ireland star performers in recent years, is suspended for those games leaving the door open for the impressive Clingan to stake his claim for that position on a permanent basis.
'My aim is to retain my place in the squad and then hope the manager picks me to play in the important games against Iceland and Spain,' explained former under-21 captain Clingan.
'I've played three times for Northern Ireland and I've enjoyed every minute of those games. I really want to play more and I'm targeting those two huge games for us next month.
'I'm always looking to improve as a player and if I do well then that may encourage the boss to continue selecting me.'
Clingan has already proved on the US Tour and against Finland he can be a major threat from set pieces and has set up numerous goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates.
It was Clingan's excellent corner that allowed David Healy to head his country in front on Wednesday night.
'My thoughts are that if you whip the ball into the danger area then there is a big chance a goal could be scored - whether it's by one of your players or an own goal,' admits Clingan.
'I know my role in the team so you'll often find me staying behind after training practicing my free kicks.
'Grant (McCann) and I hadn't played together before but we did okay together and I thought we picked it up in the second half.'
Clingan was pleased with his own personal display in Helsinki, however he was absolutely delighted that room-mate Kyle Lafferty scored his first international goal.
The two 'roomed' together in the United States and Finland - becoming close friends.
'I know he may seem shy off the pitch and then become a different person when he's on it. But I can tell you he's not at all shy. I think that's just an act,' laughed Clingan.
'I was so pleased for Kyle. He's a good player and did well to get into position for the goal. My only problem was that it took me ages to congratulate him after the game because he had all the media interviews to do.'
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