Football: Canada fiasco enrages the fans

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NORTHERN IRELAND fans are calling for the resignation of the country's manager, Lawrie McMenemy, after Tuesday's embarrassing 1-1 draw in a friendly against international minnows Canada.

Disgruntled supporters have had enough, as demonstrated by the boos that rang round Windsor Park at the end of this latest humiliation.

An own-goal from Brad Parker gave the Irish a 1-1 draw and prevented them from even greater shame, but that was of little comfort to the fans.

Following the debacle against a team ranked nearly 30 places lower than the Irish in the Fifa standings, supporters have been bombarding the Internet calling for McMenemy to be sacked.

"McMenemy out" and "the worst game I have ever experienced at Windsor Park" summed up the tone of the angry messages.

McMenemy claimed he "appreciated their disappointment", but the fans want his head rather than his sympathy.

They are unhappy that Northern Ireland's Euro 2000 qualifying campaign has fizzled out after just five games.

Martin Harris, the former secretary of the Northern Ireland Football Supporters Association, feels that McMenemy should be sacked and replaced by someone from the province, such as Jimmy Nicholl or Sammy McIlroy.

Harris, who was one of the handful of supporters who travelled to see Northern Ireland play in Spain and Moldova, feels the fans have lost faith in McMenemy.

"The game against Canada was awful," he said. "For the first 20 to 25 minutes we thought we were going to beat this team.

"But it then fell to pieces and in the end we were lucky to get an equaliser. By rights Canada should have won the game because they had some great chances.

"McMenemy came across really bad at the end of the game and we were joking if only our midfield could run as quick as he did to get out of Windsor Park. There's growing disquiet among the fanzines and the general feeling that I'm picking up is one of disillusionment. We're out of the European Championships and only a total optimist thinks we still have any chance."

Harris claims McMenemy's heart is not in the job.

"I was never in favour of McMenemy from day one and for me it's just an easy pay day for him," he said.

"Neither McMenemy nor his assistant Joe Jordan are from Northern Ireland so they do not understand how Northern Ireland players tick or work.

"I think the IFA [Irish Football Association] should buy him out of his contract and get somebody else in. The new man would then have a few competitive games to prepare for the next World Cup campaign.

"McMenemy has managed just one competitive win in five games and he's just not the man for the job.

"I would like to see a local man in charge like Jimmy Nicholl or Sammy McIlroy.

"At least they would know what our players are like and how to work with them."

The IFA will not bow to the demands of the fans and the president, Jim Boyce, stated after the 3-0 home defeat by Germany that McMenemy would remain until the end of the qualifying campaign when his contract is due to be reviewed.

As Northern Ireland's embarrassment grows under McMenemy it is becoming less and less likely that he and his management team of Jordan and goalkeeping coach Pat Jennings, the former Tottenham and Arsenal player, will be offered new contracts.

On Tuesday, Canada took the lead midway through the second half through their debutant Marc Bircham who had only been on the pitch for nine minutes.

The Millwall player, who qualified for the north Americans through his French-Canadian grandfather, said: "I thought it was a penalty and when the ref carried on and the ball went out wide I got into the box and I was just happy I didn't knock it over."

Bircham admitted he has not been to his adopted home, saying: "I haven't been there yet but I've seen it on the map.

"I was singing the anthem on the bench and I chose Canada instead of the Republic of Ireland because of my grandad."