Belfast Telegraph

I will not let my country down says Evans

Euro 2008 Qualifiers

By Paul Ferguson in Riga

Teenage star Jonny evans today sent out an encouraging and positive message to northern ireland boss nigel worthington: "pick me on saturday night and i will not let you down."

The Manchester United defender hasn't played a competitive match since the end of last season when he was on loan at Roy Keane's Sunderland.

Evans injured his ankle in a pre-season friendly against Peterborough during the first week in August and that ruled him out of Man United's early league games and the decisive European qualifying victory over Liechtenstein at Windsor Park.

But now the 19-year-old Newtownabbey-born lad is back to full fitness - and even though he hasn't played in any type of match for over a month, he insists he's more than capable of performing to the highest standing on Saturday evening at the Skonto Stadium against Latvia.

And boss Worthington, with skipper Aaron Hughes ruled out, is expected to throw Evans straight in at the deep end on Saturday night against Latvia, in a yet another crucial Euro 2008 qualifier.

What position in the back four that will be, is still unknown as nearly all the defenders in Worthington's side are versatile.

Evans, hoping to win his sixth senior cap, says: "I'm ready to play and I wouldn't have any problem playing in a tough, physical match - that would not bother me in the slightest. As long as I'm playing for my country, doing a job for Northern Ireland, then that is all that matters to me."

Evans, like a child at Christmas, is counting down the hours until he pulls on that Northern Ireland shirt again.

While he is excited, Evans is also a little wary about facing bottom of the group Latvia on Saturday night.

"If you analyse the game last October at Windsor Park against them, it was so tight that it took a moment of brilliance from David Healy to seal the win for us. It was a great victory.

"I'm expecting a similar game on Saturday however we can't always leave the goalscoring up to David. Kyle Lafferty though showed in the last game he can score while I thought Warren Feeney against Sweden was one of our best players.

"I played against Warren last season while at Sunderland and he was extremely difficult striker to mark."

Evans is pleased with the strength in depth in the squad at present and has poured cold water over his talented Manchester United team-mate Darron Gibson ever appearing in the same Northern Ireland team as him.

Londonderry born Gibson is currently at the centre of an eligibility tug of war between the Irish FA and their southern counterparts the FAI.

Irish FA chief Executive Howard Wells and Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington are adamant Gibson is not permitted, under FIFA rules, to play for Stephen Staunton's team, on the basis neither Darron, his parents or grandparents were born in the Republic. The fact he that has an Irish passport doesn't come into equation.

Football's world governing body FIFA is expected to rule on the matter at the end of the month and that would appear to be that he is only eligible for Northern Ireland at this time.

But Evans has dismissed the notion of ever performing alongside his Man United pal Gibson in the green of Northern Ireland.

Evans believes the Irish FA's advances towards Londonderry born Gibson are futile, even though Tony Kane has returned to the Northern Ireland set-up, and insists his fellow 19-year-old only wants to play for the Republic.

Gibson is in Staunton's Republic of Ireland squad for Saturday match in Bratislava against Slovakia and if the holding midfielder takes any part in the game, the Republic run the risk of losing the points due to Gibson's ineligibility.

Evans says: "I've spoken to him about it and I don't think there is a chance of Darron playing for Northern Ireland.

"He's been involved loads of times now with the Republic and as far as I'm concerned he's an Ireland player.

"I'm not up to speed with all the FIFA rules so I suppose it's just a case of wait and see."

Evans though at the minute only has his mind concentrating on one task – making a winning comeback on Saturday night against Latvia and therefore keeping the Euro 2008 qualifying dream very much alive.

Belfast Telegraph


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