Evans named in O'Neill's first competitive squad

Jonny Evans has been passed fit for Michael O’Neill’s first competitive matches in charge of Northern Ireland next month.

Jonny Evans has been passed fit Michael O’Neill’s first competitive matches in charge of Northern Ireland next month.

The Manchester United defender had ankle surgery at the end of last season and has not played so far this term, though he did make the bench for the Red Devils’ win over Fulham at the weekend.

Evans’ appearance record for his country is patchy, but he is integral to O’Neill’s hopes in World Cup qualifying and has been named in the 23-man squad which takes on Russia on September 7 and Luxembourg four days later at Windsor Park.

O'Neill has taken charge of three friendly matches since taking over from Nigel Worthington and although he has yet to win, there were encouraging signs in the 3-3 draw against Finland earlier this month.

O’Neill ran the rule over a host of players in defeats to Norway and Holland and has now settled on his first competitive squad.

One notable absentee is record scorer David Healy.

The journeyman striker was not involved in the Finland match either, but has since signed for npower League One side Bury and scored from the penalty spot on his debut.

FC Sion striker Kyle Lafferty remains first-choice up front and he is joined by Walsall’s Will Grigg, Burnley’s Martin Paterson, who scored his maiden international goal against the Finns, and Rangers duo Dean Shiels and Andy Little.

Both Shiels and Little will have to prove they are capable of balancing life in the bottom tier of Scottish football with a World Cup qualifying campaign, but O’Neill has vowed to give them every chance to do so.

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