Fulham’s Ollie Norwood has described his international career as ‘a wonderful journey‘ as he prepares to win his 50th cap for Northern Ireland in Oslo this evening.
The former Manchester United trainee was beaming in front of the assembled press pack last season, telling the journalists that he had ‘enjoyed every second’ of an international career that reached ‘unbelievable’ highs since his debut, a 2-0 defeat in Montenegro in August 2010, and his first start, which came in a defeat by Italy at the end of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, that proved to be Nigel Worthington’s last game in charge of the national side.
Norwood, who has impressed in his last two outings with Fulham as Slavisa Jokanovic’s side recorded two vital away wins before the international break, has become an international regular until Michael O’Neill and was a key performer as Northern Ireland reached the second round of Euro 2016 in France last summer. The midfielder, on loan at Craven Cottage from Brighton, hopes he can celebrate his special night with a win over Fulham team-mate Stefan Johansen and clinch a World Cup play-off place tonight.
He cast his mind back to the first time he pulled on the green and white strip ahead of reaching his international landmark:
I was having a laugh with my friends at the time, saying ‘I don’t just want to get one cap’. Luckily enough with selection I’ve managed to stay injury-free. It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve enjoyed every single second of playing for Northern Ireland.
The team has massively developed in my time. I remember my debut in Montenegro, we weren’t really going anywhere. My first competitive start was Italy away and it was Nigel’s [Worthington] last game in charge. We got beat 3-0 and there wasn’t a great feel around the squad at the time.
What I’ve experienced in my short international career so far playing in the European Championships can be the pinnacle of any career and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in that. It would have never happened if I’d said no to Northern Ireland. If I’m honest, I’d never have played for England in a European Championship. If the opportunity arises for players, and I’m sure there are a few out there, we’d welcome people with open arms.