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Bernard McNally column: International call-ups are a special honour

By Lewis Cox | Shrewsbury Town FC | Published: | Last Updated:

What an honour it’s been for the three Shrewsbury lads away on international duty.

Town defender Omar Beckles has been away on Grenada duty with team-mate Aaron Pierre (AMA)

It will have been a memorable week for our Grenada duo Aaron Pierre and Omar Beckles and homegrown talent Ryan Giles.

It was always something to look forward to. It’s something different for players, getting away and meeting new team-mates like Omar would have done.

It’s a real achievement to take confidence from. It does make you feel a little bit special, not only doing well for your club but getting noticed on the international scene.

It will definitely help Omar. Hopefully it enhances his career even more.

My Northern Ireland call-up basically happened because of Chic Bates. He was in charge after Graham (Turner) had moved on and asked me what my Irish background was.

I said that my dad was Irish, he’s from Cookstown in Northern Ireland. Chic asked if I’d ever thought about having an international career. I hadn’t, it had never even entered my head. I was from Shrewsbury but I knew I wasn’t going to play for England!

They were very welcoming, a great bunch and very down to earth. Norman Whiteside, Sammy McIlroy, Dave McCreery and Pat Jennings, usually training at Bishop’s Stortford and sometimes Belfast University.

These were big players at the top of their profession. They were so good at having me in and helping. It was en eye-opener, but there was no-one big-headed – they were humble.

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When you look at the side I was trying to break into, there were players from Spain ‘82 that had done so well and qualified again for Mexico. It just shows you how well the manager Billy Bingham had done.

In one of the first training sessions we had a nine-a-side. A very tight area. You really had to move the ball quickly.

It was a very high calibre team. I made my debut against Morocco and played against Greece and Malta, but unfortunately more often than not I was sitting on the bench.

At Mexico we were kept away from everything. Sometimes you miss the glamour of it. Now looking back it’s a great achievement and pleasure to be involved.

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Not many players can say they’ve been to a World Cup – much better players than I was haven’t!

Sam Ricketts takes Town to AFC Wimbledon before hosting Southend, who have both had poor starts to League One.

To me, they seem perfect games to blood the new strikers Jason Cummings and Callum Lang after the international break. These are the games to go and win.

Lewis Cox

By Lewis Cox
Multi-Media Sports Journalist - @lewiscox_star

Sports reporter with the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. Covering Shrewsbury Town and with a keen eye for non-league and grassroots.

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