Monday 5 December 2016

Conor Washington could get a lift from familiar surroundings

Published 22/03/2016 | 23:01

Conor Washington is in line to make his Northern Ireland debut against Wales
Conor Washington is in line to make his Northern Ireland debut against Wales

Conor Washington is hoping a return to familiar surroundings will help his late bid for a place in Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 squad.

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The 23-year-old Kent-born striker earned a maiden call-up to Michael O'Neill's side for the forthcoming friendlies with Wales and Slovenia and could make his international debut in the city he used to call home.

From Northern Ireland's base in Cardiff, Washington can see the high-rise flat he lived in during his time playing for Newport, when facing the likes of Germany, Poland and Ukraine in the summer of 2016 seemed a lifetime away.

Back then the ex-postman was still a non-league footballer but a raft of goals for the Exiles, then Peterborough, earned him a move to QPR in January and his form piqued the interest of Northern Ireland, for whom he qualifies for under the grandparent rule.

"It is a bit ironic that I could make my international debut where this journey started," Washington conceded. "I lived literally across from the hotel so it is a bit strange, but that would add to the memory of it."

Washington was watching from home when his new international colleagues were making history during their qualifying campaign, but that has not curbed his ambition to be on the plane to France.

"I was absolutely buzzing with the call-up," he added. "It's something I've known about for a little while having spoken to the gaffer a couple of times and he's been to see me a few times at Peterborough and a little bit at QPR.

"My aim is to get a bit of game time and show what I can do and hopefully be an asset to the squad. Of course the aim is to make the squad for France but at the minute I will take it game by game and enjoy training and see where it takes me."

Like fellow strikers Jamie Vardy, Charlie Austin and Andre Gray, Washington has plotted a journey from the part-time ranks, when he worked as a postman, to the top two divisions of English football.

Now he is under the guidance of former Premier League greats Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Les Ferdinand at Rangers, fuelled by a desire to make sure he is not delivering letters again.

"A lot of it comes down to the hunger," Washington explained.

"A lot has been made of how a lot is given to young players but with the likes of myself, Charlie Austin, Jamie Vardy and Andre Gray, we've been down at a lower level and don't want to go back.

"It's obviously a great life as a footballer and I think we probably appreciate that a bit more."

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