Belfast Telegraph

Injuries already for Northern Ireland boss O’Neill

By Stuart McKinley

Michael O’Neill was last night plunged into the first injury crisis of his international managerial career — almost a month before he officially becomes Northern Ireland boss and eight weeks ahead of his first match.

One of O’Neill’s top player looks certain to miss the February 29 friendly against Norway at Windsor Park and another is in real danger of joining him on the sidelines.

Rangers last night announced that the hamstring injury striker Kyle Lafferty suffered against Motherwell on Saturday is serious enough to keep him out for between six and eight weeks, leaving him facing a race against time to be fit for the Norway clash.

The news about winger Chris Brunt is worse as the West Brom captain is all but ruled out from O’Neill’s debut as the international boss.

Examinations earlier this week proved inconclusive, but a second set of scans have revealed that the injury suffered by Brunt against Everton at the weekend is a broken ankle.

He will now have surgery on the injury today and Brunt’s club expects him to be missing for eight to 10 weeks — which would mean it will be March before he is available to play again.

With a number of others expected to rule themselves out of the trip to Holland in June, O’Neill’s preparations for the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign are already being hampered, eight months before the series kicks off away to Portugal.

Injury problems dogged the latter part of Nigel Worthington’s rein as Northern Ireland boss, while others have also suffered in the past.

Sammy McIlroy went into a friendly against Spain at Windsor Park with an injury list containing 13 names.

Meanwhile West Ham and Burnley are keen to take Northern Ireland under-21 international Shane Ferguson on-loan from Newcastle United.

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