Armstrong criticises NI absentees at Milk Cup draw

Former Northern Ireland striker Gerry Armstrong has hit out at the players who have pulled out of the latest Carling Nations Cup games.

A Northern Ireland side missing many senior players was beaten 5-0 by the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.

"I looked forward to the British Championships when I was a player and if we want this tournament to continue we have to support it better."

Armstrong was speaking at the draw for the 2001 Milk Cup youth tournament.

The former Spurs and Watford forward is also disappointed at the continuing drain of young players from Northern Ireland switching allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

"We have to look at the rules, they are too open," he added.

"It is disappointing that we develop players like Darron Gibson, and then they go and play for the Republic.

"It is disappointing for Nigel (Worthington), myself and the fans.

"I want to see us develop a team that can qualify for World Cup finals like we did in 1982 and 1986.

"Hopefull we can change it in the next couple of years."

Armstrong was delighted to see former clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Watford in the draw as he praised the quality and worldwide drawing power of the Milk Cup.

He said: "No matter where I go in the world, so many people talk to me about the Milk Cup. It is one of the massive success stories for Northern Ireland not only in terms of football but also tourism.

"The significance of the event should never ever be underestimated or taken for granted.

"When you see the countries that will be represented it is a huge testament to the hard work of the organisers that they continue to produce a fabulous event despite the difficulties which have to be overcome in these financially challenging times.

The Milk Cup is now a global brand which puts our country on the international map."

Northern Ireland take on Denmark in their opening Elite Section game on 25 July with Georgia their opposition two days later.

The finals will again be held at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday, 29 July.

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