Fleetwood Town spoke to Steven Beacom ahead of Euro 2016Fleetwood Town spoke to Belfast Telegraph Sports Editor Steven Beacom today ahead of the Euro 2016 tournament which begins this evening.
For the Cod Army, all eyes will be on Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side as right back Conor McLaughlin gets set for his country’s first major competition in 30 years.
The 24 year old was an integral part of the Green and White Army’s qualifying campaign, and he will be hoping to have done enough to start in France.
Beacom hailed the right back’s impact over the past 18 months, and believes he has been one of the standout players for his country recently.
Below are Steven’s thoughts…
Well Steven, Euro 2016 is upon us and for Conor McLaughlin it’s going to a fantastic few weeks. How much will he be looking forward to this tournament?
It’s fantastic for Conor McLaughlin and it’s fantastic that he’s representing Fleetwood Town here in France. It’s brilliant also for Northern Ireland to have him because I can’t tell you how much of a difference he made during our qualifying campaign, and I just hope he gets game time because he’s been a brilliant player for us over the past 18 months. He’s fitted in like a glove here and I really can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s a great guy and the players really like him.
It’s remarkable for Fleetwood Town that they have a representative out in France, isn’t it?
When you think about it, you have players from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich competing in this tournament, and Fleetwood Town are represented among those giants. It’s fantastic that your club has a player here too. I know Conor McLaughlin will represent Fleetwood Town with great pride. He’s a quality player and what he’s given Northern Ireland over the past 18 months shouldn’t be understated. He came in at the start of the campaign and was a surprise selection by Michael O’Neill for the game against Hungary, but it looked as if he was a seasoned campaigner. He had an exceptional game and there was no way Michael O’Neill could drop him after that. He was immense that night.
How have the Northern Ireland fans taken to him over the past 18 months?
The Northern Ireland fans have a lot of time for Conor McLaughlin both as a person and as a player. When I look back at the past campaign, I’d say he was one of the most influential players because he got up and down the right hand side and worked brilliantly with Jamie Ward. He did brilliantly in that 4-5-1 system, but if Michael O’Neill goes for the 3-5-2 system then I’m sure Conor could fit in there too. There is good competition for places now but if Conor plays then I believe he will do a fantastic job for his country.
He’s going to be up against some unbelievable talent this summer, but how do you think he’ll do?
The one thing I know about Conor McLaughlin is that he’ll relish the challenge of playing against all these big names. He can’t wait to be on the same pitch as the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller, and he’ll see it as a challenge which he’ll embrace. He won’t be fearful of it in any way shape or form.
How do you rate Northern Ireland’s chances?
I believe Northern Ireland have got a reasonable chance of qualifying for the next stage. Obviously it’s going to be really, really difficult but there’s togetherness and real quality in this team. You’ve got players like Steven Davis, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans and Gareth MaCauley who all play at a high level in the Premier League. They are ready for his tournament just like Conor is, and the fans are ready too as they’ll be here in their thousands. I just hope that the Cod Army join with the Green and White Army to support Northern Ireland and Conor McLaughlin!