Tuesday 16 January 2018

Mannus ready to step up

Alan Mannus made his first international start for Northern Ireland against Malta
Alan Mannus made his first international start for Northern Ireland against Malta

Alan Mannus hopes he has shown Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill that he would be a safe choice in high-profile games after keeping a clean sheet on his first international start against Malta.

The St Johnstone goalkeeper had won four caps before Wednesday night but all as a substitute, and has spent most of his international career on the sidelines since making his debut against Trinidad and Tobago in 2004.

The 0-0 draw was a disappointment for Northern Ireland, but Mannus' performance was one of the high points, with the 30-year-old twice producing good saves to deny Malta captain Michael Mifsud. The keeper played down his role, saying: "Personally I was happy to be given the chance to start and of course play the full game."

He added: "I wasn't really tested to be honest, I don't think I had lots to do, but what I did do, I thought I did well. There wasn't a big crowd there or anything like that but I do feel I am ready for it if ever asked to step up to an international game which featured a big crowd.

"International football's always a different experience and I guess on this occasion it's definitely been a different one for me as I've got to play.

"I have been in and out of the squad over the last 10 years. I think I've sat on the bench and in the stands more than any other player in the squad over the last decade, so it's great to have the chance to play again.

"I feel I am ready, I am playing at the highest level I've played at and I've had the chance to play in big games like at Celtic, where you have 50,000 people at matches. There are other goalkeepers available besides (Lee) Camp and (Roy) Carroll, so I felt that I did okay and that I'd be ready to go in."

Canadian-born Mannus got his chance on Wednesday because of Carroll's illness, while Camp made himself unavailable for selection last year.

Despite waiting almost a decade for a full cap, Mannus revealed his dedication to the cause has rarely even been acknowledged.

"Michael hasn't really said anything to me about the loyalty," he said. "Nobody has ever really said anything to me about it, I just do it. I don't think this was any reward for loyalty, just a personnel thing."

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