Oliver Norwood admits if Northern Ireland fail to buck up their ideas ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Israel, the entire campaign will be a sour memory.
Tuesday night’s hapless combustion against Luxembourg – in what manager Michael O’Neill labelled an “unacceptable” team performance – left Norwood lost for answers.
“What a difference four days makes, from the performance against Portugal to that, which was frankly embarrassing and hard to take,” Norwood said after the game.
“We know that wasn’t good enough, nowhere near the levels we have set ourselves and the only chance we have of moving forward or getting back to what we were is to never slip up like that again.
“But as I say, what a difference four days makes. Michael told us it wasn’t acceptable and asked us how we could have possibly gone from performing the way we did against Russia and Portugal to that, and he won’t let us forget it.
“It turned the campaign over for us.”
The players looked completely out of control on the Stade Josy Barthel pitch, but were, however, united in their remorseful drift out of the dressing room, sheepishly boarding the team coach after not daring to once deny supporters’ requests for photos or autographs.
Having lathered themselves in limitless praise for a giant-unnerving performance against Portugal and last month’s win over Russia, here the same players were putting any wound-licking on hold.
The Burnley-born midfielder added: “I didn’t feel as if we were ever in control. It’s disappointing as I say so time to dust ourselves down and put that one to bed.
“If we’re going to stand there and take all the positives from the Portugal game then we have to stand there and take everything else on the chin and move on.
“We shouldn’t come here and lose, there’s absolutely no way of sugar coating this one, even retrospectively. It’s embarrassing.
“If there’s a way to have lost a football match, that was it. Entirely disappointing and embarrassing.
“We have to look at ourselves and find the answers pretty quickly as there’s only a month now until the next game so we have to look in the mirror and be honest, rally round again come October for Azerbaijan away.
“I think I played every single position going apart from goalkeeper [against Luxembourg].
“It’s just one of those things, I was asked to play different positions and you just get on with it.
“We came here and they outplayed us. We have to hold our hands up and accept that.
“Individually it wasn’t good enough, collectively it wasn’t good enough. We have to look at ourself now, when you’re getting the praise from the fans you have to take the criticism as well.”