Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

West Brom boss Clarke rages over McAuley

Steve Clarke has had a pop at Michael O’Neill for not giving Gareth McAuley a break on Wednesday night.

The West Brom boss is fuming after O’Neill kept McAuley on for the entire 90 minutes of Northern Ireland’s 3-3 draw with Finland.

Clarke feels there was no need for the centre-back to stay on for the whole game and his mood didn’t improve when he discovered that Jonas Olsson and James Morrison picked up injuries playing for their countries.

“Jonas and Gareth both played 90 minutes and that has upset me a little bit,” said Clarke who is preparing his side to face Liverpool on Saturday.

“They are experienced central defenders who didn’t need 90 minutes the week before the season starts. You can make any number of changes in international friendlies.”

Meanwhile, Roy Carroll described his return to the Northern Ireland starting line-up as a “treasured memory”.

Goalkeeper Carroll, 34, was left out in the cold during Nigel Worthington's tenure as national manager and his career looked to have stalled on 19 caps.

Having not featured since he limped out of the famous 3-2 win over Spain in September 2006 after just 12 minutes, Worthington's successor O'Neill made it a priority to reintegrate the well-travelled keeper, who is currently with Greek champions Olympiacos having also played for the likes of Odense BK in Denmark and OFI Crete.

He made his long-awaited 20th appearance as a second-half substitute against Holland in June and completed his return to favour by playing the first 45 minutes in Wednesday night's 3-3 draw against Finland.

“For me, coming back to Windsor after six years will always be a treasured memory,” said the former Manchester United player.

“It's been a long time, but to come out and see the fans in full song was great.

“It made all the difference we didn't lose, that’s the main thing, but we could have taken everything from it.

“We were disappointed of course being 2-0 up in the first half and giving two goals away in the space of two minutes wasn’t good.

“After going 3-2 down the boys dug in and got the penalty to get us a good draw.

“It’s difficult too when you are |2-0 up and then end up 3-2 down.

“We’ve got a young team and a few players missing. We have to learn quickly and grow up quickly in this game, but we played a bit of good football and it was encouraging for the younger ones.

“I suppose a draw was fair, but the big task is in three weeks time in Russia.”

It is not yet clear who O'Neill will turn to as his number one when the World Cup qualifying campaign gets under way against Russia in Moscow next month, with Lee Camp the other option.

Nottingham Forest No.1 Camp inherited the gloves from long-term first-choice Maik Taylor towards the end of Worthington's reign and has now compiled nine caps.

But he has made errors in that time and Carroll's re-emergence makes it an intriguing choice for O'Neill.

Camp, a former England Under-21 international who was persuaded to throw his lot in with Northern Ireland by Worthington after it was discovered that his grandfather was born in Newtownards, is ready to fight for his place.

“It's a challenge but it's up to me to stay in form, impress the manager and keep the shirt,” he said.

“I've always believed in competition for places and I relish that aspect of the game. It keeps me on my toes.

“As a goalkeeper you know there's only one spot up for grabs in the starting line-up and I want that person to be me.”