Northern Ireland striker David Healy said it was "a great honour" to receive a special award from UEFA President Michel Platini before Wednesday's friendly victory against Georgia in Belfast in recognition of his record 13 goals in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying.
Healy, who plays for Fulham FC in the English Premier League, was the leading marksman in the EURO qualifying competition with 13 goals in 12 games. His strikes could not earn Northern Ireland a place in Austria and Switzerland, despite a splendid campaign, but they did make the 28-year-old former Manchester United FC trainee the highest-scoring player in any UEFA European Championship qualification round.
Speaking to uefa.com, Healy said: "It's a great honour to hold the record. Maybe someone will break it sometime – but hopefully it will stand for another few years. Thirteen is a lot of goals in 12 games, so hopefully somebody will have to go some to break it. The hat-trick against Spain was the highlight. To score one against Spain was good but to score a hat-trick was great. It was a hugely entertaining campaign for the players and fans alike."
The forward added that it was "a great honour" to meet Mr Platini – no stranger himself to EURO scoring accolades, having helped France to the European title on home soil in 1984 with nine of his team's 14 goals in the finals. The UEFA President said: "David Healy's record goes down in history and he beat a world-class striker in Davor Šuker to do so. I am sure this record will last for some time to come and will be hard to beat."
Raymond Kennedy, President of the Irish Football Association, said that he first discussed the idea with his UEFA counterpart in Nyon last year. "Michel Platini invited me over to Switzerland in December for a one-to-one meeting. At the end of the meeting, he was wondering if there was anything else that we wanted to mention. So we wondered if there was any chance of an award for David Healy as he scored 13 goals in qualifying, which was a superb effort. And he said that he would create an award in recognition of his record, but wondered on what stage it should be presented. We suggested Windsor Park as this was the place where Healy has scored the majority of his goals. The UEFA President agreed."
Northern Ireland went on to win Wednesday's match 4-1 with Healy on the scoresheet for both sides. His 32nd-minute strike, a deflected drive, was sandwiched by two goals from Kyle Lafferty which Healy helped to set up – his second assist being a cross. On his big night, the No9 was everywhere, even scoring an own goal by nudging the loose ball into his net after goalkeeper Maik Taylor had saved Levan Tskitishvili's penalty. Peter Thompson struck a late fourth for the hosts.
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