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Season preview: Gloves are off in fight for a recall
6:00pm Wednesday 8th August 2012 in Sport
Goalkeeping coach Paul Musselwhite, pictured above in pre-season friendly action, is tipping York City shot-stopper Michael Ingham for a Northern Ireland recall this season
YORK City goalkeeping coach Paul Musselwhite reckons Michael Ingham deserves an overdue recall to the Northern Ireland squad.
Ingham won the last of three senior caps for his country against Wales in February 2007 but Musselwhite believes he should return to the international fold and that selectors will not be able to ignore his claims when the former Sunderland shot-stopper is performing as consistently in the Football League as he did in City’s Blue Square Bet Premier promotion-winning campaign last season.
The Ireland team will play a friendly at home to Finland on August 15 in preparation for the start of a tough World Cup qualifying group that includes Portugal, Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.
Their quest to reach Brazil then begins with a trip to Russia on September 7 followed by a home clash against Luxembourg four days later.
Ireland’s squad for the Finland match sees Nottingham Forest number one Lee Camp joined again by fellow ’keepers Roy Carroll and Alan Mannus, who are both currently out of favour at their respective clubs Olympiacos and St Johnstone.
Michael McGovern, who plays for Scottish first division side Falkirk, was also called up last season along with veteran Maik Taylor despite him only being at Leeds United as cover at the time.
Ex-Scunthorpe and Hull City netminder Musselwhite cannot understand why his club-mate has been overlooked by his country for the last five years and hopes new manager Michael O’Neill will soon take note of Ingham’s performances.
He said: “Me and Inghy chat about Northern Ireland quite a bit and there’s at least one ’keeper who gets in their squad who does not play at his club which I find quite amazing. Yes, maybe he’s a good player but, for me, you should be playing week in, week out to be involved in an international set-up.
“Inghy’s played regularly for the last four years and should be in the squad for me. He might have been out of the Football League for four years but I’ve always thought that’s where he should be playing.
“Now he can go and show what he can do on that stage, which will be good for him and the club.”
Having worked with Ingham for the first time last season, Musselwhite is also delighted that the 6ft 4in shot-stopper committed his future to the club last month by agreeing a new two-year contract.
The coach feels the Minstermen’s first-choice between the sticks can go on to establish himself as League Two’s top ’keeper, saying: “I thought he was the best ’keeper in the Conference last season and a lot of people say there’s not a lot of difference between the two divisions so I expect him to be one of the best keepers in League Two next season if he can maintain the same consistency levels.
“There were only one or two goals last season that you could point a finger at him for and, over a whole season, that is fantastic.”
With Ingham having put pen to paper to keep him on City’s books until the summer of 2014, Musselwhite also believes Tommy Forgan’s club record of 120 clean sheets is a realistic target.
Ingham, on 90, only currently trails Happy Wanderer legend Forgan on the all-time list – the goalkeeping equivalent of being the second top scorer in the club’s history – with Musselwhite feeling that achievement is worthy of greater recognition.
He added: “I don’t set Inghy goals as such but he sets himself a few. He always knows how many clean sheets he’s kept over the years and, each season, he wants to better his previous tally.
“As a ’keeper, your main target is to let in the least goals in your division. In our position, you probably don’t get as much credit as a centre forward does in the goal charts but you look at your own personal records and that one of 90 clean sheets is his.”
With Ingham only turning 32 three weeks ago, Musselwhite is now challenging him to continue playing for a further decade.
The coach, who will be Ingham’s understudy next season despite turning 44 in December, said: “I keep saying to him that he has years left in him.
“People are getting fitter and looking after themselves and their bodies better. Footballers are athletes now and there’s no reason, especially as a ’keeper, that he can’t go on and play up to 41 or 42 if he does the right things and has a bit of luck with injuries.”