Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland star Gareth McAuley: I panicked as I felt nothing in my foot

By Paul Ferguson

Brave Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley has revealed he feared the worst after a loss of feeling in his right leg following a foul by Norway’s Josh King during Sunday night’s World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.

Less than 48 hours after Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman suffered an horrendous double fracture of the leg against Wales in Dublin, an injury which will keep the Everton star out for at least six months, McAuley admitted he ‘panicked’ as he struggled to walk following the foul on 14 minutes.

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At 37 years-old, and having watched his good friend Chris Brunt miss the Euro 2016 finals due to injury following a tackle in a Premier League game, West Brom hero McAuley, who’d been winded after landing on his back just minutes earlier following an aerial battle with Alexander Soderlund, knows one bad challenge could bring a premature end to his career.

McAuley managed to stay on the pitch, play through the pain barrier and helped Northern Ireland record yet another famous Windsor Park win.

But for large periods of the first half, the Larne warrior, capped 71 times by his country, was concerned he could be a serious injury victim.

“I was winded by the first foul but it was the second one that really hurt me as he caught me on the side of the leg,” concedes McAuley.

“I went to put my foot down and it felt as though my foot wasn’t there. I panicked. There was absolutely no strength at all in it. I was so worried.

“I didn’t know what was going on. I tried to play a pass to Davo (Steven Davis) and I felt nothing at all in my foot. At that time I probably felt I couldn’t continue but I was determined to play on and see if the strength would come back and thankfully it did.”

McAuley continues: “The more I kept moving the more strength returned which was a huge relief.

“Once I could feel my foot again then I stopped panicking.”

McAuley, despite his advanced years, has incredibly been an ever present for club and country this season. He has scored a remarkable seven goals for West Brom while he was on target for Northern Ireland against Azerbaijan in November and, of course, scored the all-important go-ahead goal against Ukraine in the Euro finals last year.

Baggies chief Tony Pulis has offered McAuley a one-year extension to his current deal meaning the former Crusaders and Coleraine centre half will be playing Premier League football at 38.

Big G, though, realises that the good times could all come to an end in a heartbeat.

He adds: “I never have and never will take anything for granted. You never know in this game.

“You see things and players getting injured and things like that.

“You never know when your last game of football is so, if you start taking it for granted, it’s a game that can come back and bite you.

“It can finish you off. You’ve seen some players whose careers have just dropped away.

“I’m enjoying my football as much as I ever have. Touch wood I haven’t had injuries which have kept me out of games.

“I’m lucky that the West Brom manager keeps on picking and playing me and grateful that the club keep me there and keep me playing.”

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