Oliver Norwood admits he feels ‘shafted’ at missing out on a place in the World Cup after Northern Ireland fell to an 1-0 aggregate defeat to Switzerland.
Michael O’Neill’s men missed out on their first World Cup appearance since 1986, but put in a spirited performance in Basel in a scoreless second leg on Sunday night.
A highly-disputed penalty from Ricardo Rodriguez in Belfast was the difference between the sides, which left Norwood frustrated.
“Shafted is the only word to put it,” Norwood said.
“I will think about the penalty decision for years to come as it’s the only goal between the two sides and it’s knocked us out.
“It’s not just the penalty decision as the tackle Fabian Schar made on Stuart Dallas in Belfast was a red card.
“He then decides to go in for a two-footed tackle and the referee didn’t even blow for a foul, which was astonishing.
“The referee has a hard job keeping up with the quickness of the game, but you can’t deem those two tackles as not being red cards in the modern game.
“The player has lunged in from 10 yards in both games.”
Northern Ireland failed to register a single shot on target in the first leg at Windsor Park, but Norwood hopes their performance in Basel has left people ‘proud’ back home.
“We were angered, upset and disappointed with what happened in Belfast,” Norwood added.
“We can stand here and complain all night, but I hope we put in a performance that everyone in Northern Ireland is proud of.
“We left everything out there and it just wasn’t to be.
“I don’t think their players enjoyed facing us and we got amongst them.
“We spoke about making Northern Ireland proud and I think we did that.
“We are devastated as a squad, but I hope we stick together.”
Question marks will loom over the international futures of Gareth McAuley, Chris Brunt and Aaron Hughes - as well as manager Michael O’Neill. However, Norwood hopes the spirited performance in Basel will convince all four to remain on board.
“Hopefully, all the players will remain available for one more campaign,” Norwood revealed. “Obviously, we all want Michael to stay.
“We hope that our performance tonight would want him to remain in charge.
“The message is loud and clear from the players and fans that we would like Michael to stay as we can achieve great things with this squad.
“We have some good young players coming through and we have players with a lot of experience as well.”