Craig tops Pool’s league of nations

Blackpool's Craig Cathcart
Blackpool's Craig Cathcart
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IF ever you needed proof of the strength of the Seasiders squad, it can be found this international weekend.

Six of Blackpool’s stars are in action for their countries.

Matt Gilks and Matt Phillips with Scotland, Craig Cathcart with Northern Ireland, Tom Ince and Nathan Delfouneso are on England U21 duty and young keeper Chris Kettings is celebrating his first call-up for Scotland U21s.

While Scottish and Welsh internationals have become a regular feature at Blackpool in recent years, England ones haven’t.

You have to go back to the 1966 World Cup final to find the last senior England international to come from Bloomfield Road in the form of Alan Ball.

And before Ince’s appearance against Azerbaijan yesterday, Peter Clarke in 2004 was the last Pool player to play for the U21s.

In Cathcart, however, the Seasiders have one of Northern Ireland’s first-choice defenders.He’s started the season in decent form at Bloomfield Road, even scoring against Ipswich, and he’s looking forward to two tough qualifying games this week.

“We have Russia away, which will be a massive test,” said Cathcart. “We saw in the Euros how good they are when they were unlucky not to advance into the latter stages.

“International football is totally different from the Championship and hopefully it’s something I can learn from.

“The two games coming up are our first competitive games under the new manager, so hopefully we can get off to a good start.”

Cathcart arrived at Blackpool from Manchester United at the start of the Premier League season.

Since then he’s been a key part of Pool’s back four and currently finds himself at the heart of the defence alongside Alex Baptiste.

On Blackpool, he said: “I’d say the performances have been really strong so far this season, and we’ve got three great results out of four.

“Leicester was our toughest test so far, but every week in the Championship you get a tough game.

“In the squad now we have plenty of players who can come in and do as good a job as the players who are starting.

“We have a really strong squad this season and it’s nice to be involved.”

Ian Holloway has said that Baptiste is his main defender and that Cathcart faces a battle with Ian Evatt for the other space.

It’s a challenge which the Irishman is ready to tackle head on.

“I’m at the age now where I need to be playing games – I’m not as young as I once was,” said the 23-year-old.

“The most important thing for me now is to keep playing games and trying to develop.

“Evo has been unlucky with his foot injury and that’s allowed me into the side.

“We’ve got a big squad and everyone will no doubt be in and out of the team over the season.”

Cathcart doubled his scoring record for the Seasiders during the 6-0 win over Ipswich in the last home game. His only other goal came against former club United two seasons ago.

And he’s hopeful he can add goals to his game.

“It was nice to get a goal against Ipswich and hopefully I’ll be able to get a couple more this season.

“I don’t really score many, so I never set myself targets. I just need a bit of luck at the end of the day.”