Northern Ireland’s George Saville wants positive start to EURO 2020 campaign

Northern Ireland midfielder George Saville’s key word for this EURO 2020 qualification campaign is “belief”.

Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 11:41 am
George Saville

Michael O’Neill’s men start their qualfication campaign tomorrow night as they tackle Estonia at the National Stadium at Windsor Park before taking on Belarus at the same venue on Sunday.

They will then travel to these two sides in June before facing the might of Germany and Holland later this year.

And Middlesbrough midfielder Saville is sure they need to pick up points against the so-called two ‘weaker teams’ in the group.

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“Obviously I wasn’t here for the last Euros, but speaking to the boys there was a huge belief and there was a great start to that campaign which pushed the boys through,” he said. “As well for the World Cup, it was tough having Germany in our group and we had the disappointment of the playoffs, but they’re all good experiences.

“There have been many lows, but a few good highs and that EURO 2016 campaign is something we can use and help us heading into this one.

“It’s important to start well in this group and we’ve got two games coming up against the so-called easier opponents, although we know it’s going to be tough.

“These two games and the two games in June could set us up nicely, as long as we get off to a good start.”

And Saville says the way the fixtures fall will hopefully help O’Neill’s side.

“Yeah, it’s a tough draw obviously, but the schedule, you couldn’t have picked it any better really, if we’re going to be honest about it,” he said. “Thursday is the first step and it’s important to get off to a good start.”

And Saville believes he is learning all the time from international midfield partners Steve Davis and Corry Evans.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “I’ve been here now 18 months or so and I’m happy with how things are going.

“The Nations League was disappointing but the performances were there.

“But this is where it starts now really and this is where it matters if we want to qualify for the Euros.”

“You can put more responsibility on yourself and to be a top player you need to do that and grab games by the scruff of the neck at times.

“‘Davo’ maybe hasn’t been playing as much, but it hasn’t changed the player he is and he’s still had a few minutes here and there.

“That won’t matter too much and he’ll still be the ‘Davo’ we all know. He’ll turn up for his country and perform the way he has always performed.”

And Saville believes that some of the squad not playing regular football will not be a problem in the coming days.

“It might make a slight difference in fitness levels because playing week in, week out for your clubs will always help you stepping into the international scene,” he said. “But we’re professional athletes and keeping ourselves in good nick is what we are paid to do, so it’s up to us to do that. I’m not sure it’s a huge factor and people can look into that and look for excuses, but we won’t be looking for excuses.”