Germany defender Mats Hummels may have been unfamiliar with the Northern Ireland tale prior to Euro 2016, but he has quickly turned into a fan of the Conor Washington and Will Grigg stories.
Michael O’Neill’s side became the first ever team to top a Euros qualifying group having been drawn from pot five and their reward was clashes in France with Poland, Ukraine and the world champions Germany, whom they meet in their final Group C game in Paris this evening.
They were a largely unknown quantity to Hummels, who has never played against Northern Ireland in his career, but the popularity of one-time postman Washington and cult hero Grigg has garnered admiration from the 27-year-old.
And, in the unlikely event Wigan striker Grigg appears on the pitch at the Parc des Princes, Hummels confirmed that, although he is not ‘terrified’ of him, he will be asking for the Northern Irishman’s number nine jersey due to the social media buzz his chant has created.
“Well, although I like the song and these actions, I would like to agree (that Germany are terrified) but it’s not quite right,” he said.
“I’ve heard about this call to the firefighters, I love that story! I’ll try to give my jersey (to him) tomorrow. I don’t want them to score but yes, I’m already a great fan of his.”
The defender, who is swapping Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich this summer, stopped short of chanting the ‘Will Grigg’s On Fire’ ditty himself, though, adding: “I’m maybe the worst singer in this team so I won’t do this!”
One player more likely to see the field Paris is Washington, who started up front in Lyon against Ukraine and may retain his spot for a clash which could seal Northern Ireland’s last-16 progress.
The QPR striker was delivering post while playing non-league football four years ago and his rise, similar to that of England’s Jamie Vardy, has impressed Hummels.
“I’ve heard about the story, I love stories like that,” he added.
“We know they live from the emotions and are supported from the fans, I think one-tenth of the Northern Irish are present right here at this tournament. It’s more difficult for us, we can’t transport eight million people over here!”
The most recent meeting between the two countries came 11 years ago when a Germany team that played with 10 men for 75 minutes recorded a 4-1 victory in Belfast.
However, Hummels believes they can look to their qualifying games against the Republic of Ireland and Scotland for an indication of what to expect from their foe on Tuesday.
“It’s not a big surprise that we didn’t know that much about Northern Ireland; I haven’t played them yet in my international career,” he said.
“The British teams are often very similar in that style of play, we played Scotland and Ireland in the qualifiers.
“We saw how strong these teams can be, physically and mentally, how passionate, so we know it’s a possibility that they can gain the confidence to beat us if we let them gain this confidence.
“We will try to be the better team from the first minute so they don’t start believing in themselves, that they are able to win.”
Hummels conducted the press conference alongside Germany’s assistant manager Thomas Schneider as boss Joachim Low, who was present for the training session, had a sore throat.
It did not seem that was brought on from yelling at his team following the 0-0 draw with Poland last Thursday, though.
“Even if we don’t play so well in one game he will trust in us in the next game,” Hummels explained.
“He wasn’t loud in the dressing room against Poland, not as loud as (Liverpool’s former Dortmund coach) Jurgen Klopp would have been. I have never seen anybody as loud as Mr Klopp before.”