Out of favour Gareth McAuley is ready to use tonight’s Euro qualifier against Romania as the perfect shop window to further his career.
The defender, who will skipper his country in the absence of the injured Steven Davis, has been left out in the cold by Alan Irvine as the Baggies boss has preferred Craig Dawson and Joleon Lescott as his centre half pairing.
McAuley, a two-time player of the year, hasn’t played a minute in the Premier League this season. His only appearance for West Brom has been in the League Cup.
But the 34-year-old believes he can force his way back into the Baggies team and aims to prove a point to Irvine by producing an excellent defensive display against Romania tonight — especially as Northern Ireland are expected to come under a bombardment.
McAuley, who wins his 51st cap, said: “My club situation has not been ideal but I’ve been in the game long enough to know things can change very quickly. I picked up an injury in pre-season and then missed the start of the season and lost my place in the team.
“That’s the first time that has happened to me in my career but I’m experienced enough to know how to deal with it.
“I’ve been working hard to try to get my place back and have been doing a lot of extra training.
“Coming away with Northern Ireland is always good. I am confident I can contribute as I have done in the first three games.
“And playing for the international team is also a shop window, either to impress my club manager or if things don’t work out, for another club in the future.
“I will give my best for Northern Ireland and when I get back to West Brom I will do exactly the same and hopefully things will change for me.”
Too often in campaigns Northern Ireland get carried away and sadly come down to earth. But after three wins on the trot, McAuley is confident complacency will not set in tonight.
“You can’t stop people getting carried away. We know we haven’t even played half our games but the start we’ve had is better than we could’ve have imagined,” he said.
“One thing is for certain is that we will give our all until the last game in Helsinki.”