Paddy McNair will be hoping his excellent performances for Northern Ireland in the EURO 2020 qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus haven’t gone unnoticed at Middlesbrough.
The Ballyclare man has found game time hard to come by at The Riverside Stadium this season.
With only three Championship starts to his name, 12 appearances in total and 374 minutes played in the league you could excuse McNair for being frustrated.
But that certainly isn’t the case. Instead he is determined to get his head down and keep working hard and be ready to take his opportunity if and when it comes along.
“I just have to keep my head down at club level and keep working away,” the 23-year-old said after the 2-1 win over Belarus on Sunday evening.
McNair certainly made the most of his opportunity with his country impressing as part of a midfield three alongside skipper Steven Davis and ‘Boro team-mate George Saville.
The former Manchester United man provided a real thrust to Northern Ireland and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet.
“I think that’s my best position,” he said.
“I felt I played well and helped the team win and that’s always the main thing.
“I love playing for Northern Ireland and I thought I played well over both games and I felt quite fit as well considering the club situation.”
As far as missing the chance to get on the score sheet against Estonia McNair joked it was the groundsman’s fault.
“He made the pitch too firm,” he laughed.
“It’s just one of them, where I probably thought I’d scored before I headed it, but hopefully I’ll get the next one that comes my way.”
Thankfully for McNair and Northern Ireland the miss did not prove costly as they walked away from their two games with maximum points.
The Middlesbrough man feels the spirit in the camp is what keeps them going as they proved with the late winner against Belarus.
“I think it helps that all the lads are close friends and we definitely bring that on to the pitch,” said McNair.
“We kept going towards the end and got our rewards.
It was a tough game. I thought we played really well in the first half and took the lead through Jonny (Evans).
“They got back into it with a lucky goal and in the second half we found it hard to break them down but we kept going and managed to break through towards the end and get the winner.
“The main thing was to get six points and it is the perfect week.”
Next up for Northern Ireland is the reverse fixtures with Estonia and Belarus in June.
McNair is targeting another two wins ahead of the four games against big hitters Germany and the Netherlands.
“We’ll look forward to June,” he said.
“Hopefully we can build on these two wins, get another two and then we take on the big guns in Holland and Germany. I think that will decide our fate.”