Nigel Worthington’s side go into Friday nights game with Estonia in crisis having only won two of their last 22 internationals, losing 13 of them.
His hard luck tale continues with him calling up youngsters Andrew Little and Olivier Norwood for the Euro 2012 qualifiers with Estonia and Italy.
Little, who is on loan at League Two side Port Vale from Rangers, is joined in the squad along with Scunthorpe United’s Norwood, who is with the League One outfit from Manchester United.
News of Little’s call-up was announced on the Valiants’ official website and confirmed by a posting on the player’s Twitter feed in which the 22-year-old could not contain his excitement.
“Just been called into the Northern Ireland squad for the Euro qualifiers,” Little stated. “En route to Manchester Airport now for flight to Belfast. Buzzing!”
20-year-old Norwood made his international debut in a 2-0 friendly win over Montenegro in August 2010 and has gone on to win a further three caps for his country.
Captain Aaron Hughes was on Monday ruled out for what would have been his final appearances for the national side, while strikers Jamie Ward (hamstring) and Josh McQuoid have also withdrawn.
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans is doubtful with an ankle problem but he has yet to be ruled out of the qualifiers.
Steven Davis has admitted he would be interested in succeeding Aaron Hughes as Northern Ireland captain.
Rangers star Davis will skipper Northern Ireland against Estonia on Friday to mark his 50th cap for his country.
Hughes is the regular captain, but the role will become available when the Fulham defender retires from international football at the end of the current Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Davis, who has captained Rangers in the absence of David Weir this season, admits he would be proud to succeed Hughes as Northern Ireland captain.
“I have enjoyed standing in as Rangers captain and anyone would be proud to lead their country,” said Davis.
Davis admits Hughes’ retirement from the international fold will leave a huge void to be filled.
“It is a huge blow because Aaron has been such a consistent performer for us ever since he started playing,” added Davis.
“He is someone everybody in the squad looks up to.
“I have enjoyed standing in for David Weir as captain of Rangers and would love to do it for Northern Ireland.”
Ahead of the match an interesting stat is that Estonia have scored more goals from outside the box (six) than any other team in Euro 2012 qualifying. Estonia have already won seven points from losing positions in this qualifying campaign, the most of all teams.
In Northern Ireland’s last 19 internationals combined, Pat McCourt is the only player to have scored more than one goal (two).
Estonia have lost seven of their last nine away internationals without scoring a single goal in these defeats, but did win their last away fixture 2-1 in Slovenia.