Elliott enjoys remarkable rise

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The Independent Football

Stuart Elliott has capped a memorable few days by winning his first call-up to the Northern Ireland squad.

Stuart Elliott has capped a memorable few days by winning his first call-up to the Northern Ireland squad.

Elliott, who scored twice for Motherwell on his full debut in Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Kilmarnock, has been named in the party for next month's opening World Cup qualifier against Malta.

Northern Ireland's manager, Sammy McIlroy, has been impressed by the 22-year-old midfielder since he joined the Scottish Premier League side from Glentoran during the summer. McIlroy feels the former Under-21 international could prove a useful addition on the left side of midfield because of the injuries to Michael Hughes and Peter Kennedy.

"We are a little bit weak at the moment on the left-hand side without Hughes and Kennedy and really we've only got Kevin Horlock as a natural left-footer," he said. "This is an ideal opportunity to bring the boy in and have a look at him because you only know if someone is ready when you give them a go.

"I've heard a lot about the lad and obviously his transfer to Motherwell has given him a boost. He's done well and he scored two goals on Saturday, which isn't bad."

Neil Lennon, Steve Lomas and Gerry Taggart have also been named in the squad for the game at Windsor Park on Saturday 2 September. The Irish Football Association will be expecting them to play this time after they controversially withdrew from last week's friendly against Yugoslavia, saying they were injured. The IFA has vowed to invoke sanctions laid down by Fifa, the world game's governing body, against their clubs if they drop out again.

McIlroy said: "Hopefully everything will be OK this time. We're not taking anything for granted, but hopefully they will come through the weekend's games and be ready for us."

The Manchester City midfielder Jeff Whitley and the Hearts striker Andy Kirk step down from the senior squad to join the Under-21s for their opening European qualifying match against Malta on 1 September. McIlroy said: "I've released Whitley and Kirk to help out the Under-21s, but they're still very much part of my plans for the senior side."

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (World Cup qualifier v Malta, Windsor Park, Belfast, 2 September): Carroll (Wigan), Taylor (Fulham); Nolan (Bradford), A Hughes (Newcastle), Williams (Wimbledon), Taggart (Leicester City), Griffin (Dundee Utd), Murdock (Preston); Lomas (West Ham), Lennon (Leicester), Gillespie (Blackburn), Johnson (Blackburn), Horlock (Manchester City), Mulryne (Norwich), Magilton (Ipswich), Elliott (Motherwell); Healy (Manchester Utd), Quinn (WBA), McKnight (St Mirren), Gray (Burnley).