James McPake in Northern Ireland squad

JAMES McPake, who captained Hibs during his loan spell at Hibs, was yesterday called up by Northern Ireland for their friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on 2 June as manager Michael O’Neill steps up his policy of expanding the available player pool.

The defender, who qualifies via the grandparents rule, spent half the season on loan at Hibs from Coventry and has opted to throw his lot in with Northern Ireland after failing to win international recognition with Scotland. O’Neill has made it clear he is willing to consider anybody who is eligible for the country, regardless of where they were born, and has been working behind the scenes to persuade others to follow suit. “James has a lot of attributes that can be very useful for us,” said O’Neill, himself a former Hibs player.

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“He’s versatile, can play anywhere across the back and he’s been on the fringes of the Scottish squad. This is a good opportunity for us and a good opportunity for him. His agent notified me of his eligibility and we followed it up quickly, so this has all happened in the last couple of weeks. I spend a lot of time researching the available players because we need as many as possible. I have spoken to a number of others and some haven’t made that decision or aren’t willing to change their allegiance at the moment. But we will continue to monitor and strengthen.”

Injured Rangers pair Steve Davis and Kyle Lafferty, along with Kilmarnock’s Dean Shiels are unavailable, but Aberdeen’s Rory McArdle has been recalled.

Squad: Camp (Nottingham Forest), Mannus (St Johnstone), Carroll (Olympiacos); Duff (Burnley), McGivern (Manchester City), Hodson (Watford), Coates (Crusaders), McArdle (Aberdeen), Lafferty (Burnley), McPake (Coventry); Clingan (Coventry), McCann (Peterborough), Evans (Hull), Ferguson (Newcastle), Hughes (Notts County), Norwood (Manchester United), McCourt (Celtic); Healy (Rangers), McQuoid (Millwall), McGinn (Celtic), Carson (Ipswich), Little (Rangers), Grigg (Walsall), Donnelly (Swansea).