Hamilton relies on raw recruits

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The Independent Online
Bryan Hamilton has had to fall back on Northern Ireland's younger talent for today's World Cup game against Albania in Zurich.

Injuries and suspensions have opened the door for West Ham's Keith Rowland and the uncapped trio of Danny Sonner, of Ipswich, Watford's Peter Kennedy and Newcastle's Aaron Hughes. Gerry Taggart, Steve Morrow, Jim Magilton and Ian Nolan were all out of contention.

And, while the Northern Ireland manager was ready to use the qualifier against Albania and next month's final qualifier against Portugal to plan towards the 2000 European Championship, even he did not envisage how drastic the changes would have to be.

"It's good to make changes as you go along and it was a policy decision that we were going to look at one or two younger players, but the way it has happened wasn't the way we planned it," said Hamilton, who also has West Ham's Michael Hughes suspended.

"Five changes is too many, but it is an opportunity for players and hopefully the lads who come in will make it difficult for those who are missing to get back in."

Hamilton thinks highly of Manchester United's Philip Mulryne, James Quinn, of Blackpool, Stoke's Gerard McMahon, Chester's Iain Jenkins and St Johnstone's Danny Griffin.

West Ham's Steve Lomas and Iain Dowie return from suspension and the Manchester City goalkeeper Tommy Wright is back after injury.

Hamilton has to solve the problem of the captaincy, with Lomas now a contender. "No overwhelming candidate jumps out, so my aim is to get someone in place before the European Championship qualifiers," Hamilton said.

"I've been delighted to be made captain at West Ham with Julian Dicks injured," Lomas said. "It's a role I have enjoyed. It's flattering to be mentioned as a possible captain, but I think Bryan Hamilton will go for one of the more experienced players."

Albania, who lost 3-0 in Armenia at the weekend, have had to play all their games away from home because of civil unrest.

NORTHERN IRELAND (v Albania, World Cup Group Nine, Zurich, today): Wright (Man City); Gillespie (Newcastle), Rowland (West Ham), Hill (Trelleborg), McGibbon (Wigan), Griffin (St Johnstone), Horlock (Man City), Lomas (West Ham), Lennon (Leicester), Quinn (Blackpool), Dowie (West Ham). Substitutes: Davison (Grimsby), Mulryne (Man Utd), Jenkins (Chester), Sonner (Ipswich), A Hughes (Newcastle), Kennedy (Watford).