Northern Ireland great Maik Taylor has revealed he would prefer not to draw England in the Euro 2020 qualifiers insisting that the nation’s expectations have moved on from simply playing in glamour fixtures.
During a distinguished 12 year international career Taylor was the goalkeeping hero when Northern Ireland claimed some famous scalps shining in an epic 1-0 victory in 2005 at Windsor Park against a star-studded English side – the last time the nations met.
Declaring that Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland fear no-one ahead of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifying group draw in Dublin, the country’s goalkeeping coach says that avoiding England would benefit hopes of reaching the finals given the form of Gareth Southgate’s side who this year made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup and Nations League finals.
Taylor, who won 88 caps, said: “It would obviously be a fantastic occasion but I think the days are gone when we look to land an England or another big nation in the draw and enjoy a fixture like that. We have moved on. Now our expectations are higher because of good performances in recent qualifying campaigns under Michael reaching the Euro 2016 finals and a World Cup play-off.
“We are now looking to qualify for tournaments not just to have a big game now and again.
“We don’t fear anyone but there may be better draws out there than England given how they are doing at the moment.
“They are a young team with pace all over the pitch and are on a high.
“They’ve beaten Spain away and Croatia at home recently in the Nations League after enjoying a great World Cup and might relish playing a British style game against us.”
Taylor added: “If it happens we’ll be ready for the challenge and of course it would be great for the fans but if we have high expectations and aspirations of qualifying for the Euros they are probably a team to avoid because they are flying.”
One man that Northern Ireland will be without for the start of the Euro 2020 qualifiers in March is Motherwell goalkeeper Trevor Carson, who last week was struck down by a serious illness having developed Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) ruling him out for the rest of this season.
In his role as goalkeeping coach, Taylor has enjoyed working with Carson, saying: “It was devastating news for Trevor and I really feel for him.
“The most important thing is for Trevor to get healthy again. I wish him well and a speedy recovery but something like this doesn’t repair itself quickly.
“He has been a fantastic goalkeeper for a long time but was playing his football at a low level then he got his breakthrough at Motherwell and has been amazing for them.
“For Northern Ireland he has been very patient and I know how proud he was to make his international debut earlier this year.
“The thing about Trevor is, as well as being a brilliant goalkeeper, he’s also a great lad. When the manager made the call to go with young Bailey Peacock-Farrell at the start of the Nations League, Trevor was a true professional about it.
“I’m sure he was disappointed but he has been very supportive towards Bailey. Hopefully Trevor can fully recover, be ready to go again and get back to the levels he has been showing us because he’s a very important member of the Northern Ireland squad.”