Healy drops Ipswich hint over need for regular spot

The Northern Ireland captain, Aaron Hughes, has backed David Healy to continue to pose a threat to defences all over Europe after another landmark night.

Healy was handed a special award by the Uefa president, Michel Platini, before Wednesday night's 4-1 thrashing of Georgia at Windsor Park in honour of his record 13 goals in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Predictably, the Fulham forward marked the occasion with a goal – and, less predictably, a second-half own goal – to take his tally to 34 goals in 64 games. Hughes has backed him to reach even greater heights and fire Nigel Worthington's side to the 2010 World Cup finals.

"We know his goal-scoring record. He turns up, and you know that if he gets chances he's going to get goals as well," Hughes said. "He scored another one, and we hope he'll continue to do that but we'll see how things go from now until the end of the season for him."

This is problematic, given Healy's current lack of first-team chances with Fulham. It seems that under Roy Hodgson he has little future with the London club, and it has been suggested that he could join his countryman Jim Magilton at Ipswich on a short-term loan. "Nobody's ever happy about not playing first-team football," Healy said. "Jim's a terrific manager; he's done a terrific job. Ipswich are a terrific club, and I'm sure he'll keep doing a terrific job. We'll have to wait and see."

Another experienced campaigner to prove a point in Belfast was Keith Gillespie. The Sheffield United midfielder, 33, insisted in the build-up to the game, in which Kyle Lafferty's two goals and Peter Thompson completed the scoring, that he still sees a long-term international future for himself under Worthington.

If he felt under pressure for his place, Gillespie responded in the best possible way with a display full of menace and guile as the Georgians failed to control him, particularly in a rampant first-half showing.

Asked whether Gillespie could carry on at the highest level, Hughes added: "I hope so – at least if he keeps playing like that every night."

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