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BAGGIE OF TRICKS BAGGIES OF TALENT v; SCOTLAND LATEST; James doesn't fear Irish team-mates.

Byline: Scott McDermott

He plays alongside three of their first-choice back four at West Brom.

So no-one has to tell James Morrison how solid a unit Northern Ireland are.

But as the Scotland star weighed up a potential World Cup play-off tie against Michael O'Neill's side - he revealed he'd still back us to beat them.

Northern Ireland have enjoyed a phenomenal campaign and sealed second spot in their group behind Germany in midweek after seeing off the Czech Republic in Belfast.

Morrison is a team-mate of Baggies trio Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt, who are key components of O'Neill's squad.

But after Gordon Strachan's boys fought their way back into contention themselves with a double victory over Lithuania and Malta - the Scots might just join them in the play-offs.

And Morrison, who played his part at Hampden on Monday night, is convinced that we'd having nothing to fear going to Windsor Park.

He praised the job O'Neill has done with Northern Ireland but reckons Strachan's side are now beginning to motor.

Morrison said: "We've obviously got Jonny, Chris and Gareth at West Brom who all play for Northern Ireland.

"So hopefully we can nail down second spot in our group and maybe draw them in the play-offs - because I'd fancy our chances.

"They've got real momentum from Euro 2016 and they've got a style of play they stick to.

"The manager has done a fantastic job there, especially getting them to a finals. They're a great defensive unit and they're hard to beat.

"Malta were a bit like that last week. You can tell they have an Italian coach and England struggled to break them down.

"We could have actually scored a few more than two against them but it was still a job well done from us.

"We've got some good players now fighting for spots in every position for Scotland. That's what we need.

"Our training's always good and the lads are superb. So it was good for me to be involved.

"I was pleased to get on against Malta. I hadn't had a game but when Darren Fletcher pulled out of the squad I had an idea that I might get a call.

"I was happy to come and get some game-time. I've been involved with the squad for a few years now so I know what it takes.

"The Slovakia game next month is now shaping up as a huge one for us so we'll all need to pull together as one to get the result."

Another one of Morrison's pals at The Hawthorns is winger Matt Phillips, who finally announced himself as a Scotland player during the double-header.

The Ireland has fanatstic -Despite earning his first cap five years ago, he has only had five since but Morrison believes the wide man is now ready to nail down his place in Strachan's starting line-up.

After watching him rip up the Premier League last season, he's adamant that Phillips can be a revelation for the national side.

Morrison said: "Matt has just been waiting for his chance. Last season he was a big part of the team at West Brom but maybe injury cost him his chance with Scotland.

"He has been chomping at the bit to be involved and he's now cemented his place for the next campaign.

"I've spoken to Matty about his lack of caps since making his debut. But he's ready to give it a right go and he's exactly what we need.

"He has pace, power, he's direct and he causes defences problems.

"Matt was just unlucky last year.

He got an injury and other people were doing well in his position.

"Look at our bench the other night, someone like Matt Ritchie, who is playing well in the Premier League, couldn't get a game for us.

"I always thought that when Matt was fit he'd do well for Scotland. He was on fire in the Premier League at one stage and he showed glimpses of that against Lithuania and Malta.

"He also gives us a bit of size and we're not the biggest team."

Behind the likes of Phillips, Ritchie and James Forrest in the Scotland pecking order is young winger Oliver Burke.

Northern boss He has just moved to West Brom from RB Leipzig for a fee of around PS15 million and scored as captain for the Scots U21 side in their win over Holland on Tuesday.

done a job especially them finals Morrison is looking forward to seeing Burke develop at the Midlands club - and says if he has to improve the defensive side of his game he'll have the perfect teacher in Tony Pulis.

He said: "It's great for Scotland that Oli's got his move to the Premier League and he knows he has a lot of work to do.

"He'll have to fight to get into the West Brom team but who knows what can happen from there?

"We've got a lot of experienced players who will help him. And the manager will be great for him - he'll certainly teach him how to defend!"

and the order Oliver West the their on club has The Northern Ireland boss has done a fanatstic job - especially getting them to a finals Hopefully we can nail down second spot in our group and maybe draw them in the play-offs - because I'd fancy our chances. They have momentum. But we have some top players

CAPTION(S):

BAGGIE BOYS Morrison plays alongside Evans, McAuley and Brunt with West Brom but would love to face them

IRISH TRIO Evans (above), McAuley (right) and Brunt (below) star for Northern Ireland

MORR INVOLVED Morrison gets back in action against Malta
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 10, 2017
Words:948
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