Oliver Norwood is relishing his return to the international arena against South Korea and beyond as the Northern Ireland midfield ace helps kick off another era under Michael O’Neill.
O’Neill’s decision to pen a fresh contract in the aftermath of last year’s World Cup play-off pain offered a boost to Norwood and the other established figures - plus increased hope towards a bright future.
This weekend’s friendly at home to South Korea has presented O’Neill an opportunity to introduce the next generation within a learning environment alongside existing experience like Norwood.
“Everybody’s come back looking fresh and looking to build on what we’ve achieved over the last four or five years,” said Norwood. “It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was coming into the squad, they’ve got to work hard and look to impress Michael, do everything in training that they can.
“For us as players it’s great, you see that energy they bring, as a senior player now it makes you up your game.
“They’ve got to come in and look to take people’s shirts.
“When I was in the 21s it was a big thing, getting to train with the senior boys, just watching what they do, how they handle themselves.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there.
“It’s an exciting game to test ourselves against a very good level of opposition, hopefully, we can build on what we’ve done in the past and kick-start and build momentum ahead of qualifying campaign for the European Championships.
“The core of the squad is still there, there’s always going to be new introductions.
“We’ve probably 30 players to pick from for 25 places, so competition’s good.
“We’ve had success but we’re not happy with what we’ve achieved, we’re not settling on that, we want to kick on and go on.”