McGinn thanks Lennon for support
Celtic midfielder Niall McGinn has thanked Neil Lennon for his backing as he prepares to end a five-month innjry-nightmare. McGinn is hoping to play for Northern Ireland on Friday against Italy in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier even though he is yet to make a first-team appearance this season.
He saw his progress in Glasgow come to a shuddering halt in May when he broke his right foot during a routine training session. Now with only one reserve match behind him, McGinn has declared himself fit and ready to face the former world champions.
Speaking ahead of the match at the squad's Templepatrick base, near Belfast, he expressed his gratitude to Celtic manager Lennon, who called time on his own Northern Ireland career after receiving a death threat.
McGinn said: "Neil Lennon has been very supportive. He was on at me all the time wondering if I was going to get called up or not. He still takes a big interest in Northern Ireland and asks how the players are getting on and what they are up to.
"It is good to see him showing an interest as obviously he played for Northern Ireland. I am feeling fine now. It has been a long time since I played for Celtic. I came back three weeks ago and played a reserve game against Motherwell and training has been going well.
"I have been in the Celtic squad the last three games but haven't stripped. I am ready to get going and hopefully I will have a big part to play against Italy."
Northern Ireland go into the match on the back of 1-0 victory against Slovenia in Maribor in their opening qualifier - a match McGinn watched with a few friends in a Belfast pub. He is looking forward to returning to Windsor Park and believes they can unnerve Italy.
McGinn said: "I have enjoyed every moment at the ground. The fans have been brilliant since I made my debut and there has been a really good buzz about the place.
"Growing up you want to play against teams like Italy. They used to be the world champions so we have to respect them. But it is a challenge we are all looking forward to. We will try and get at them and score some goals. We have got to push on after Slovenia and get as many points as possible, especially at home. I am sure the fans will be raring to go again."
Meanwhile, defender Gareth McAuley has revealed that the players are fired up before they enter the dressing room thanks to a recurring picture show on the 30-minute coach ride to the ground
He said: "We usually get a video on the bus of past games, tackles and goals and things like that, all the good memories. It starts to build you up for the game. Then you drive through the little streets and when you get to Windsor you are ready as soon as the bus pulls up.
"It is special atmosphere at the ground, especially night games under the lights. Everything seems closed in and tight. The crowd are pretty much right on top of you."