Rangers’ Dean Shiels and Andy Little included in Northern Ireland squad
DEAN Shiels and Andy Little were given confirmation yesterday that playing in the Irn-Bru Third Division will not be an impediment to them continuing their international careers, as Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill included both Rangers players in his squad for next month’s World Cup qualifying double-header against Russia and Luxembourg.
There was also a spot for former Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty, now at FC Sion, but Hibs captain James McPake was overlooked, despite the manager watching him produce a man-of-the-match display for O’Neill’s former club Hibs in their 2-0 win over St Johnstone at Easter Road on Saturday.
McPake made his Northern Ireland debut in a crushing friendly defeat to the Netherlands at the end of last season, but Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley, Aaron Hughes and Craig Cathcart were all included instead of the Hibs centre-back. O’Neill is crossing his fingers that Evans will be fit enough to feature from the start in his first competitive games as Northern Ireland manager. As a Manchester United regular, Evans arguably has the most big-game experience at club level within the squad, but his international career has been hampered by injury and former manager Nigel Worthington’s preference to play him at left-back.
O’Neill made a statement when he took the reins at the start of the year by restoring Evans to his preferred centre-half position against Norway and is now desperate for him to lead the back line in thes double-header. Evans has yet to play for United this term, a hangover from the ankle surgery he underwent at the end of last season and a belated return to pre-season training. But he is now back with the first-team squad and was on the bench for the win over Fulham at the weekend.
Northern Ireland kick off their road to the 2014 finals in Brazil in Moscow on September 7 and O’Neill, having included Evans in his 23-man squad, is desperate for him to make the starting XI. “Jonny has had his injuries and he had to have surgery but he’s made progress with his return and he was on the bench on Saturday,” said O’Neill. “There are 10 days before the Russia game and we hope his fitness can really improve. He is vitally important to us.”
Squad: L Camp (Nottingham Forest), R Carroll (Olympiakos), A Mannus (St Johnstone), L Hodson (Watford), C Cathcart (Blackpool), G McAuley (West Brom), A Hughes (Fulham), J Evans (Man Utd), R McGivern (Man City), C Evans (Hull), S Davis (Southampton), O Norwood (Huddersfield), J Carson (Ipswich), C Baird (Fulham), S Ferguson (Newcastle), C Brunt (West Brom), P McCourt (Celtic), M Paterson (Burnley), K Lafferty (Sion), D Shiels (Rangers), A Little (Rangers), W Grigg (Walsall), J Ward (Derby).
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
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