Michael O’Neill spoke of his pride at eclipsing a record his old international boss Billy Bingham set in the 1980s as Northern Ireland made it 10 games unbeaten with a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Belfast.
A first-half goal from recent call-up Conor Washington, who had set foot in the country only once before, and a second-half penalty save from Roy Carroll made from Milivoje Novakovic took Northern Ireland’s streak without defeat into double figures.
It was Bingham’s team who had set the benchmark en route to the World Cup in 1986 and O’Neill’s side have now bettered it during a run where they also become the first team since to reach a major international tournament.
“It’s great for this group of players,” said O’Neill.
“There’s players that have gone 10 games without a win, the opposite side of that, and played in bad times. We’re in this moment, we want it to last as long as we can keep it there.
“It’s nice for me because Billy Bingham was the manager who gave me my debut at 18 years of age, he believed in me at a young age. I’ve tried to take that into management in terms of giving players opportunities.”
One of those players given a chance over this slate of international fixtures was Washington, a 23-year-old Kent-born forward who once worked as a postman and progressed through the non-league ranks.
“The first time I saw Conor play was against Luton in the second round of the FA Cup and he scored a goal in the exact same area of the pitch,” O’Neill added.
“He loves to get into that tussle with a centre-back, the physical side of the game, but equally when he gets in there he has the ability to show a bit of quality.”