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Rory McArdle has best seat in the house against Luxembourg
Rory McArdle looked a bit bored every time the camera scanned the Northern Ireland bench.
It was probably just unfortunate timing. But every time the picture zoomed in on the dugout, the City defender seemed to be fiddling with his beard or looking at the floor.
Then again, it was not a night to be anywhere near the spotlight.
Hidden in the second row directly behind his manager was probably the best seat in the house as his side crumbled to one of the most humiliating defeats in their international history.
The United Kingdom had only just gone decimal when Luxembourg last won a World Cup qualifier on home soil. The likes of Gilbert O’Sullivan, David Cassidy and Lieutenant Pigeon bossed the music charts.
As one writer at the game summed up perfectly – little Luxembourg, a country that has won more Eurovision song contests than qualifying games.
But 41 years of waiting ended on Tuesday in scenes of delirium among the locals. Cue meltdown for the victims.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill labelled it the “worst performance” he had ever seen.
His head is no doubt being measured up for the Belfast block as we speak.
McArdle was involved in one of them in club colours the previous Tuesday as City blew up unexpectedly at Hartlepool. Bet he’s relieved that, unlike last season, there aren’t too many more midweek outings on the horizon...
At least the recriminations cannot be pointed in his direction.
As frustrating as it may have been to spend a week away, sit through two matches without a single kick – and lose his City starting spot in the process, for one Saturday at least – McArdle’s reputation will be untainted.
His name will not appear on the roll of dishonour as the team that lost to the team that never, ever win.
We thought England’s goalless grind in Kiev was ugly enough.
At least Roy’s ordinary boys came home with something.
That point should – I repeat, should – ease their passage to next summer’s finals in Brazil.
That is, of course, providing they do something in the last two games that they haven’t managed so far – beat an opponent with more might than Moldova or San Marino.
At least one of Montenegro or Poland must be seen off at Wembley to get England over the finishing line.
The grim draw in Ukraine will then be seen as a useful means to an end. Even if nobody will ever want to clap eyes on the highlights.
However dull a non-spectacle, I’m sure 1,100 travelling Northern Ireland fans would have swapped that for the pantomime unfolding before their disbelieving eyes.
“I just feel for people who came to watch it,” lamented O’Neill.
McArdle might take the view that not being involved at all was the best thing that could have happened for his future international career.
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