Monday 26 September 2016

Boyce happy to avoid play-off

Published 29/05/2015 | 16:51

Liam Boyce is back in Northern Ireland's squad after a four-year exile
Liam Boyce is back in Northern Ireland's squad after a four-year exile

Liam Boyce admits he is particularly happy to be in Northern Ireland's squad for Sunday's friendly against Qatar when it looked as if he might be facing a do-or-die play-off with Ross County instead.

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A day after Motherwell and Rangers met in the first leg of the Scottish Premiership play-off final, 24-year-old County forward Boyce was training with his international team-mates ahead of their clash with the 2022 World Cup hosts in Crewe.

It seemed unlikely that he would be back on the international scene at the turn of the year when he had struck just three goals for a club that was in danger of dropping out of the Scottish flight.

However, the Staggies would go on to win 10 of their final 14 games, losing just twice, as Boyce bagged seven in his final seven games to lead County to safety, an achievement which also paved the way for his international recall to Michael O'Neill's squad.

"Up until a couple of weeks ago our season could have been a week longer," Boyce noted.

"Thankfully, I scored a couple of goals at crucial times to get us out of that situation and it's given me this opportunity to play international football.

"It's a different type of pressure altogether. Here's a platform to preform whereas there there are livelihoods at stake at them clubs because people are out of contract and they need to preform with a different pressure on them.

"We went on that run of nine games where we won eight and drew one that has sort of pushed us to safety. We just needed to get over the line and thankfully we did that before the last game."

Former Cliftonville striker Boyce's last cap for his country came in 2011 when he was playing for German side Werder Bremen.

He failed to make the grade on the continent but his maturation in a country famed for developing young players, coupled with his stronger, fitter physique, has helped Boyce earn international recognition once more.

"The technique I have now has been improved because of that," he said of his time with Bremen.

"I think it's stood me in good stead now I'm home and realised what full-time football can give you in life. It's just got me remotivated and thanks to the German technique I can push on from there and use that.

"Everyone wants to learn different styles of football, it makes you a better player all round. The Irish League way has probably made me more physically developed because I was playing at a young age. Then I went to Germany and it's made me better with the ball at my feet.

"I'm getting the best of both worlds, really. I would encourage anybody to take the opportunity."

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