Welcome change for McCartney
McCartney was omitted from the Black Cats team that drew with Fulham on Sunday to stretch their run without a win to 14 games. Northern Ireland's form has been just as bad over the years when they travel away from home. Next up are Albania in a friendly on Wednesday, when Nigel Worthington's side will be looking for only their fourth victory in 21 away games. McCartney said: "It is nice to meet up with a different set of lads. Hopefully when I go back the batteries will be recharged and I can look forward to the next game. "We started the season really well at Sunderland and were in the top ten. Things were moving along nicely. "But we haven't won in a while and and when that happens confidence is low and team spirit isn't what it should be. "It is a bit of a rough time at the minute but I am sure we will come through this sticky patch and pull ourselves away from the relegation zone." McCartney is pleased that manager Nigel Worthington has agreed to stay on for the duration of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. The 28-year-old believes there is good cause for optimism because of the ages of the squad. McCartney said: "There was a big debate as to whether Nigel was going to stay or go back into club football. "It is all sorted out now and I am sure Nigel more than anyone is glad about that. Now he can look to the future. "He has a really good young team and we have made good progress over the last couple of competitions since he came in. "I am sure he is pretty confident the team can go one step further and get qualification." McCartney is looking forward to going head-to-head at international level with his Sunderland team-mate Lorik Cana. "He plays midfield for us and centre-half for Albania, " said McCartney. "He is a top bloke, a really nice guy, who is easy to get on with. "He joined in the summer and gets on really well with the lads. It is good to have him around the place." McCartney added: "We are hoping to improve our away form. It's been poor the last three or four years. "They are down the rankings from us but you face big, strong teams when you come to these places. Albania will be no pushover." Worthington has been hit by a raft of withdrawals ahead of the match. Chris Brunt (calf) and Gareth McAuley (groin) have both been ruled out though injury while Warren Feeney is staying behind to deal with a domestic matter. In addition Damien Johnson did not join the travelling party as Plymouth made a successful request for the midfielder to be rested. However Celtic winger Niall McGinn is available after recovering from a thigh problem.