GARY MILLS was busy banging the international drum on in-form York City goalkeeper Michael Ingham’s behalf after the Minstermen’s last outing against Rotherham United – only for his words to fall upon deaf ears.
It remains to be seen if a repeat performance today from the Northern Ireland custodian – capped three times by his country – resonates across the Irish Sea with boss Michael O’Neill.
Regardless of whether it does or not, one thing is for sure, Ingham will never give up hope of rekindling his cherished international career.
Named as York’s player-of-the-month for September, Ingham is keeping the faith that word will finally get out if his displays continue in the same vein.
His manager made several calls after his exploits helped City become the first visiting side to win at the Millers’ New York Stadium in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win on September 4, even sending over a DVD of his performance.
Despite being met with silence, expect the York chief to continue to fight Ingham’s corner if his purple patch continues.
Last capped in February, 2007, many in the shoes of Ingham, 32, would seemingly have bowed to the inevitable, especially given his age.
But that is plainly not his style and while he is realistic enough to appreciate that hopes of a regular starting spot or even being second choice is optimistic, a squad place is well within his remit, he believes.
Roy Carroll and Lee Camp are currently battling it out for the first-choice role, but with Bury’s Trevor Carson and St Johnstone’s Alan Mannus behind them and not exactly being household names, Ingham certainly believes he is worthy of a squad spot.
Ingham, whose first cap came against Germany in an IFA 125th anniversary match in 2005, said: “It was a great honour for me to play for my country and I relish it and want to do it again. I have not retired and I never will as playing for Northern Ireland is something that means a lot to me.
“I have had no contact at all for years – but one day, that call will come again.
“I have just got to keep doing how I have been, week in, week out and I will continue to get good reviews and eventually the word will get out.
“My proudest moment playing for my country is probably starting a friendly game against Uruguay at the Giants Stadium in New York (in May, 2006) and that day will always live strong in my mind. It is right up there with winning at Wembley with York.
“I also remember being on the bench for the win against England in 2005, which was probably one of the greatest days in Northern Ireland’s football history and for the victory against Spain and everybody knows what they have gone on to achieve. I would like to see those days again.
“When you are playing in the Conference, no-one has heard of it over in Northern Ireland, although it is a very strong division and very good standard. But now I am back in the league, people might take more notice.
“We have played some great stuff at times at York and, hopefully, that will continue and word will get around and feed back.
“We have obviously also got Paddy McLaughlin, who is playing well as well and in the Under-21 set-up and if he keeps developing in the way he is, he will be knocking on the door in a few years.”
Ingham has quickly adapted to life back in the Football League and while City’s form has been solid rather than spectacular thus far, the goalkeeper is confident there’s plenty more to come.
With a big week coming up in league and cup, with City facing high-profile games against the Millers, Coventry City and Bradford City – which encapsulate in a nutshell what being back in the big time means to the club – now would be a great time for the Minstermen to hit top form.
Ingham, who, despite being in his early thirties, is confident his best years are still ahead of him, said: “It has been a good, steady start and we have not been turned over by anybody. But the most promising thing is that we know we have not hit full throttle yet.
“That is more to come, definitely. I think when we hit the ground properly, we will surprise a few teams in this division.
“Rotherham will be a good test for us and will give us an indication of where we are in the league. After Rotherham, we entertain Coventry and then head to Bradford and they are three mouth-watering games.”
“Personally, I have been delighted with the start I have had. I want to play as long as I possibly can and believe I have got many more years to offer in the game.
“As you get older, you do a bit more off the field stuff to help you and seeing what the likes of Brad Friedel does inspire you.
“You look at everything and see what is good for you such as looking at your diet more.
“As you get older, it’s harder to keep weight off and I have learned to eat properly when I am not playing.
“As a goalkeeper, you also develop your mental side as you get older and with age, you always play more games as well. The more games you play, the better goalkeeper you become and that has definitely been the case with me.
Over to you, Mr O’Neill.
n Rotherham United’s game at Accrington Stanley has been re-arranged.
The game, which was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch on Tuesday night, has now been scheduled for Tuesday, November 27 (7.45pm).