NORTHERN IRELAND’S record-breaking 1-0 win over Slovenia on Monday night was achieved via the boot of a player who was delivering mail for a living just four years ago.
Currently of Queens Park Rangers, Conor Washington was playing non-league football for St Ives Town FC in Cambridgeshire in 2012, but he has progressed up the divisions thanks to his prolific goalscoring rate ever since.
His match-winning goal at Windsor Park on Monday night took Northern Ireland’s unbeaten streak to 10 games, a new record for the nation, surpassing the nine-match run set in 1986 under the stewardship of Billy Bingham.
Born in Kent, Washington qualifies for Northern Ireland through his late Belfast-born grandmother, and made his debut for Michael O’Neill’s side against Wales last week.
That game took place in Cardiff, meaning – ironically – Washington played for Northern Ireland before ever setting foot in the country.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph before the Wales game, the 23-year-old said: “My gran, who passed away 10 years ago, lived in England, so I’ve never actually been to Northern Ireland but I still have relations living in and around the Belfast area.
“I’ve always known that I was eligible to play football for Northern Ireland. I could have also played for Scotland as my mother is from there, but that was never really an option much to my mother’s disappointment.”
Speaking of his fond memories of his grandmother, Washington believes she’d be proud of him, while the former Peterborough striker now has his sights on earning a place in the final squad bound for Euro 2016 this summer.
“She had a really strong accent so that has made it easier for me to understand everyone! She’d be really proud,” he said of his grandmother after his match-winner against Slovenia.
“If I did manage to make it to France with Northern Ireland it would be a dream come true, as everyone wants to pit themselves against the best players in the world.”