NI fans urged to create ‘sea of green’ in Euro 2016 crunch qualifier

Fans celebrate a Kyle Lafferty goal against Hungary in one of  Northern Ireland's qualifying matches for the 2016 European Championships
Fans celebrate a Kyle Lafferty goal against Hungary in one of Northern Ireland's qualifying matches for the 2016 European Championships

The Windsor Park faithful are being asked to create another famous ‘sea of green’ for Thursday night’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Greece.

The fans’ initiative was instrumental in helping change perceptions about the atmosphere at international fixtures – and provided an impressive backdrop to some legendary images such as ‘that’ David Healy goal against England in 2005.

Gary McAllister, of the AONISC, wants 'the most colourful and vocal atmosphere imaginable' at Windsor Park

Gary McAllister, of the AONISC, wants 'the most colourful and vocal atmosphere imaginable' at Windsor Park

Now, with Northern Ireland closing in on a place at the finals in France next year, the Green and White Army is being urged to play its part by recreating the colourful spectacle.

The Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters’ Clubs (AONISC) hopes the fans will respond by mirroring the green of the players’ jerseys, with plenty of balloons, scarves and flags on display too.

AONISC spokesman Gary McAllister said: “We all remember the famous nights and the excellent results that we cheered our team on to during the past decade.

“As our team and our country stands on the verge of achieving history, it would be magnificent to see the famous ‘sea of green’ again on Thursday.”

Mr McAllister added: “There’s a real air of anticipation and excitement amongst the Northern Ireland public ahead of the match and we would encourage everyone to get involved.

“We’d love to see and hear the most colourful and vocal atmosphere imaginable to help Michael [O’Neill] and the players get ‘over the line’ against Greece. We can all play a part, we can all make it happen.”

Gerry Armstrong will be at Windsor Park commentating on the match for Sky TV.

The 1982 World Cup hero said caution will be needed in what will be a tougher game than many people think.

However, he said: “I don’t think we are the sort of team that is going to go about losing as we have got such a good record at Windsor Park.

“We have to get at least a point out of it and make sure we don’t lose. The worst case scenario as I see it is that we draw and end up going to Finland looking for a point.

“It should be a great occasion and hopefully we can rise to the occasion and create a bit of history.”

The former Spurs forward added: “Michael has got the confidence there and I haven’t seen a [Northern Ireland] team playing with that sort of confidence since the 1982/1986 squad.

“We had that belief in ourselves when we were playing at home and it was like ‘we are not going to lose here, we are going to win’. That is why we went five and a half years without defeat [at home].

“They are a good team, they are very well organised and they play to their strengths. I would love to see us qualify ... I would love to”.