Bolton striker Dion Charles has told Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough he is ready to step up and solve the nation’s scoring problem.
Northern Ireland have scored just six goals in their last nine competitive games, two of them in a losing case when they lost 3-2 to Saturday’s opponent Kosovo in June before saving a 2-2 draw with a late comeback against Cyprus in Windsor Park days later.
With their 14-match scoreless run in the Nations League putting pressure on manager Baraclough, Northern Ireland must find solutions both this weekend in Belfast and Tuesday’s game against group leader Greece.
Charles has yet to break his international duck in 11 appearances for Northern Ireland, all as a substitute, but after scoring four goals in eight appearances for Bolton this season, the 26-year-old has confidently signed up for his service.
“I had a chat with Ian to let him know I’m ready when he’s called up,” Charles said. “If I get the chance, I’m sure I’ll grab it.
“My first goal is to make a start and I have confidence in my own ability and in the team that I will get chances and score when I’m on the pitch.
“I just need to keep my head down and work hard in the sessions we have and give the manager something to think about.”
Charles got his first call-up in March 2021, but admitted that establishing himself in an international squad was a very different challenge than anything he’d experienced before.
“It’s frustrating for me because I want to play,” he said. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve played pretty much every game.
“In the international setting, it’s a different environment that I had to get used to. I’ve had to find my feet and I’m just looking forward to trying to get that starting spot.
“It has always been my goal to play in this team. International football is different from club football, so I had to bide my time, but hopefully I will get my chance soon.”
The pressure is on Baraclough to go into Saturday’s game. Northern Ireland started playing in League C and talked about promotion but fought in the last two games to avoid the drop after a dismal June in which an exhausted team put in disjointed performances.
But Charles insisted the mood in the camp was good with some players back in the squad and confident that they can change things this weekend.
“I think a win is coming and that could completely change the mood,” he said. “We had periods in those other games where we looked really good. We just need to get more consistency and keep creating chances.
“We created them, but they didn’t put them down, but hopefully we can rectify that.
“I think as a whole team we are in a better place this time. We have more guys playing week in, week out. Maybe we didn’t have that in June, so we are looking forward to it.”