EURO 2016: Jonny wants to be good and give GAWA something to cheer about against Ukraine

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans with Poland's Krzysztof Maczynski. INLT 24-927-CON
Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans with Poland's Krzysztof Maczynski. INLT 24-927-CON

Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans says that he and his team-mates want to give the fans back something ahead of Thursday night’s crucial Euro 2016 encounter against Ukraine in Lyon.

Evans feels that the squad wants to give the Green and White Army something to cheer about.

“As players we ran ourselves into the ground and you could see that at the final whistle, some of us were absolutely shattered, but when you look around at the still images after the game of the fans and see them with their heads in their hands, you don’t want to see that as players.

“They travelled all this way; spent all this money. You want to give them something to cheer about. A goal would be nice as well and that’s something we want to do.

“I think after the game, looking back, if we do go out of the tournament, we want to by having a go, leaving nothing in the tank and giving everything we can and not let the tournament pass us by.”

He also believes that one victory can transform the group.

“That’s why we’re not too downbeat,” he said.

“Four third places go through. You get one win and you still have a chance. I think it’s a great format they’ve produced because it keeps every game alive and gives every team a chance going into the last game that they can get something from the tournament.

“Personally, I think the hardest part was getting here. We’re here now and can enjoy it. There’s no pressure really.

“We’re in a group against three top sides. We can go out and express ourselves.

“The hardest part was getting here, and that’s always been the stumbling block for Northern Ireland over the years.

“Each game is like a cup final and that’s the way you’ve got to treat it.

“You’ve got to go out and enjoy it but express yourselves and not leave anything in the tank.”

The West Brom defender also paid tribute to late Ballymena man Darren Rodgers, who sadly died after he fell from a promenade on the French Riviera in the early hours of Monday.

“It was one of the first things we heard the morning after the game when we woke up. Straight away you’re thinking of the families,” he added.

“We were talking about it on the way back from the game, regardless of the result, it was probably one of the greatest experiences we’ve ever had as footballers.

“The fans played a huge part in that. To wake up the next day and learn that one of them had passed away was very sad news.”

The 28-year-old also praised the Republic of Ireland fans who during their Euro 2016 opener against Sweden at the Stade de France, stood up, clapped and sang “Stand up for the Ulstermen”, in the 24th minute, as a mark of respect to Rodgers.

“It was really nice to see. I hadn’t seen it but we were told about it,” he said.

“Ourselves have put a request in to UEFA and we’ll definitely try and pay our own respects in some sort of way.

“It shows from the Republic of Ireland fans, the togetherness that’s been in the tournament, especially towards Northern Ireland fans.

“I think as players we’ve been very proud of the way they’ve conducted themselves. Everyone I’ve spoken to speaks about how the atmosphere they’ve created has been unbelievable.”