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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 May, 2003, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Gillespie's NI rallying call
Keith Gillespie was sent-off in the European qualifier against Greece
Keith Gillespie says Northern Ireland have been unlucky

Northern Ireland star Keith Gillespie has called on his international team-mates to rally behind manager Sammy McIlroy.

The NI boss has endured a miserable run with Northern Ireland failing to score in any of their last eight internationals.

McIlroy's side are currently stranded at the bottom of their European Championship qualifying group with just one point from four games.

"We have not had much luck and it has been very difficult for Sammy," said Gillespie after being named the NI international personality of the season.

"We have had so many injuries and suspensions. We just have to accept we do not have the resources other countries have.

"We are 100 per cent behind Sammy and sooner or later things are going to change for us.

"Hopefully, we can do that soon because Sammy deserves it. He is a passionate man and he does care about what happens to football over here.

"I am proud to play for my country. It is difficult when you have three or four withdrawals.

"England, with a big squad, can cope better, but it makes life very difficult for us.

"Sammy has never had a full squad available.

"Hopefully the players will remain loyal to him and give it a real go. Sammy is a great man to work for."

Gillespie, sent-off in Northern Ireland's last match against Greece, expects to be moving to a new club in the close season now that his contract with Blackburn has expired.

"I have a few things in the pipeline and will be talking to a number of clubs over the next three or four weeks," he said.

"I have been fortunate to play for some great clubs and great managers and I hope to be playing in the Premiership again next season. It is the best league in the world.

"It is up to me to pck the right club."

NI's Keith Gillespie
"Sammy cares passionately about Northern Ireland football"

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