McAuley Returns To NI Squad Ahead Of World  Cup Qualifiers

Veteran defender Gareth McAuley has been recalled into the Northern Ireland (NI) squad ahead of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Norway slated for October.

The 37-year old had earlier missed last month’s victories over San Marino and Czech Republic as a result of a thigh injury.

Another NI defender in Craig Cathcart didn’t make the 26-man squad because of a knee injury but there are call-ups for uncapped pair Jordan Jones and George Saville.

Martin O’Neill’s team currently occupy the second spot in Group C behind Germany and only a win would suffice if they want to emerge as group winners having already sealed a top-two spot.

NI host Group C leaders Germany on October 5 and failure to beat the world champions mean they will have to settle for a playoff berth. They face Norway in Oslo three days later for their last game in Group C.

McAuley, who has scored 9 goals in 72 appearances, was forced off with a recurrence of a thigh injury during June’s qualifier victory over Azerbaijan and is now expected to start in place of Cathcart against the Germans in Belfast.

Speaking about his squad, O’Neill said: “Gareth would always be a big miss. His game time has been limited but McAuley is always one who you want in your squad.”

“Germany couldn’t be more difficult – we couldn’t have the game though at a better time and we have nothing to lose.

“After the players experienced the Euros, we want to experience a World Cup. But we have lots of work to do yet.

“Jordan Jones is quick, he’s the sort of player fans will love. It’s a great opportunity for him and he is only 22.” he added.

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: McGovern (Norwich City), Mannus (St Johnstone), Carroll (Linfield)

Defenders: Hughes (Hearts), G McAuley (West Brom), Evans (West Brom), Brunt (West Brom), C McLaughlin (Millwall), Hodson (Rangers), A Thompson (Bradford City loan), D Lafferty (Sheffield United), Flanagan (Burton Albion)

Midfielders: Davis (Southampton), McGinn (Gwangju), Norwood (Fulham loan), C Evans (Blackburn), Ferguson (Millwall), Dallas (Leeds), Lund (Burton Albion), Paton (St Johnstone), J Jones (Kilmarnock), G Saville (Millwall)

Strikers: K Lafferty (Hearts), Magennis (Charlton), Washington (QPR), McCartan (Bradford City)