Northern Ireland: Jonny Evans back for World Cup qualifiers

Jonny Evans, Leicester City's defender, has been suffering from a foot injury.
Jonny Evans, Leicester City's defender, has been named in the Northern Ireland squad for October’s World Cup qualifiers in Switzerland/Bulgaria.

A foot injury prevented the 33-year old from participating in September's qualifiers against Lithuania and Switzerland.

Evans played his first 90-minute match of the season on Tuesday 22 September in Leicester's League Cup victory over Millwall.

After missing September's matches, Stuart Dallas and Corry Evans return. Josh Magennis is also back.

Dallas, a Leeds United utility man, sat out the win against Lithuania and draw with Switzerland for personal reasons. Evans and Magennis were both injured and missed the games.

There is no room for Anorthosis forward Kyle Lafferty and Hearts striker Liam Boyce. The latter will be unavailable for selection.

Northern Ireland will face Switzerland on the 9th of October, before traveling to Bulgaria three days later.

Ian Baraclough's men are third in Group C. They are three points behind Switzerland, in second place, and nine back of runaway leaders and European champions Italy.

The NI boss, who was hired in June 2020 on an 18 month contract, is optimistic about extending his contract beyond the current qualifying campaign.

"I enjoy what I do. He said that we are at the beginning of a new cycle in which we will try to put together a team capable of challenging for major tournaments.

"If it doesn’t happen this time, I will be in charge of the next Euros campaign.

"We have a plan at IFA to bring young players through.

"We had to increase the number of players so that things like this [a contract extension] can be taken care of."

Evans stated that NI "won't gamble or risk" his life.

Baraclough stated that he is looking to continue the momentum he and his team have built after a win over Lithuania, a draw with Switzerland, and a friendly win over Estonia.

He said that the Evans brothers, Dallas, and Magennis are "big for the group" and that he will manage Jonny Evans’ game time to make sure he gets the most out of the defender.

Baraclough stated that Jonny's experience and presence speak for themselves. He hopes to make it through the games this week to be able join us.

"Managing him and Brendan Rodgers, Leicester City manager], is essential. He and the medical staff will guide me.

"We won't put anyone at risk, or gamble with anybody. Jonny is in the best position to make that call.

"We will ensure that he arrives at camp in good health and be right. Brendan, Jonny, and I will call him if he's not right.

Boyce is welcome to come in.

Baraclough will be without Boyce, despite the return of the quartet. Boyce was in good form for Hearts at start to the Scottish Premiership season.

Like in September, the 30-year old asked not to be selected for selection due to family reasons. Baraclough stated that he understood and respected his decision but added that "the door will always remain open for him".

The 50-year old added, "He has had an excellent start for Hearts, scoring goal and his confidence is high,"

"It is a huge ask for players to leave their families and Liam is no exception.

"I respect the decision of everyone when it comes down to that. It was a topic we have discussed and had a good discussion about. I can understand his position.

"You want people in form and Liam has that, so for me he would have been someone who would have fit right in the equation but it's not possible at the moment."

Shayne Lavery's first international senior goal was scored in September against Lithuania.

Baraclough is unable to make Boyce's visit, but he hopes that Shayne Lavery will be able to carry the strength of Blackpool into an international setup.

Lavery, who came to Blackpool in summer from Linfield, the Irish Premiership champions, scored his first goal for Northern Ireland in September's victory over Lithuania.

He has contributed to a great start for Blackpool. He is fit, he's scoring goals, and he has a lot of energy, speed, and power. Baraclough described the 22-year old as "a threat in the back and something a little different to the other players."

"To have players in good form and full confidence is all that you could ask for." Shayne will be looked after by us. We know he'll have his ups and downs, but he has placed himself in a position to lead the attack.

Northern Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Bailey PeacockFarrell (Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Burnley), Trevor Carson, Conor Hazard (Celtic), Trevor Carson (Dundee United).

Defenders: Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart (Watford), Stuart Dallas, Shane Ferguson (Rotherham United), Jamal Lewis(Newcastle United), Michael Smith (“Heart of Midlothian”) Daniel Ballard (Millwall on loan from Arsenal), Tom Flanagan ("Sunderland") Ciaron Brown ("Cardiff City”).

Midfielders: Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Corry Evans (Sunderland), George Saville and George Saville (Millwall), Gavin Whyte(Oxford United on loan from Cardiff City), Jordan Thompson (“Stoke City”) Jordan Jones (“Wigan Athletic”) Alistair McCann (“Preston North End”) Conor Bradley („Liverpool“).

Forwards: Josh Magennis, Conor Washington (Charlton Athletic), Shayne lavery (Blackpool), Dion Charles(Accrington Stanley).