INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL: Former postman Conor keen to deliver for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland round off their Euro 2016 group campaign in Paris against world champions Germany on a Tuesday night - a day of the week which ex-postman Conor Washington used to relish playing on.
The ex-Posh striker (24) combined representing non-League St Ives between 2010 and 2012 with a job delivering mail, which often meant arriving, sleep-deprived, for Saturday afternoon kick-offs.
“At the time scouts were coming to watch I was praying they would come on Tuesday night because at least I would get some sleep in the afternoon,” Washington told Press Association Sport.
“I was turning up to some Saturday FA Vase games, the biggest games of my career at the time, and I literally had to run my round. I probably shouldn’t say this but I had to bring my mate in - there was late post, it was probably delivered to the wrong address, parcels going missing - just to try and get to this game.
“One of the last games of the season I turned up three minutes before kick-off, it was just carnage. Thinking back now, it’s so funny.”
Having averaged more than a goal-a-game in his 50 appearances for a club in the ninth tier, Washington then got his break with Newport.
They were promoted to the Football League in his first season, although Washington barely featured, scoring just once in the league and being left out of the squad which won the play-off final at Wembley.
“We got promoted but I hadn’t played any part in it,” he added.
“As much as it was great for all the lads, it was a horrible feeling. I’ve only been involved in one promotion and I didn’t feel like I’d actually contributed at all.
“I sat down with my parents and just said, ‘I’m going to give it one last go. I’ve got one year left, if it doesn’t work out there’s other options I can explore - going in the airforce and things like that’.
“It was chains are off, shackles are off; I went back in pre-season and the first few sessions a few of the lads were a bit surprised that I was maybe as good as I was.
“It was really nice at that point to take all the pressure off myself and go and enjoy it.”
The goals soon came back and they did not stop when he joined Peterborough in 2014.
By mid-January of this year, when QPR took him from London Road, he had already scored 15 goals and piqued the interest of Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.
Washington had only been to the country once before his international bow in March but he qualified through the grandparent rule.
On his home debut, he scored past Slovenia and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak and he followed that up with another goal in last Friday’s win over Belarus.
Now, having been named in the 23-man squad bound for France later this week, Washington can once again look forward to another Tuesday evening fixture and not even the prospect of facing the world champions will give him sleepless nights.
“From where I’ve come from, it’s been a crazy ride up through the leagues,” Washington noted.
“There might be those niggling doubts of am I good enough to play at this level? Hopefully I’ve done enough to quash those worries.
“Football’s football at any level, if you’re good enough you’ll play and have an impact. I back myself 100 per cent of the time to have an effect on the game.”