Belfast Telegraph

Johnson and Duff injured and now McAuley is considering his future

By Chris Holt

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington has been hit with a triple blow ahead of the Euro 2008 qualifier against Sweden in Stockholm later this month.

Two crucial players - Birmingham City midfielder Damien Johnson and Burnley defender Michael Duff - have been ruled out through injury.

Johnson, who has yet to play for his club or country this season, is also likely to miss the last two qualifiers against Denmark and Spain after suffering a new hamstring injury.

Burnley defender Duff is definitely sidelined for the rest of the campaign because of a serious knee injury picked up after scoring for the Clarets in Saturday's draw with Crystal Palace

To add to Worthington's woes, defender Gareth McAuley has revealed may quit international football after being left out of the squad to face Sweden.

"I'll see this campaign out and after that I'll be thinking of the future," said the Leicester City player.

"If I'm going away for 10 days and I am not being involved it frustrates me and it knocks your confidence a bit."

Worthington phoned the 27-year-old at the weekend to break the news that he is not in the panel for the qualifier in Stockholm.

"It's something I'm not very happy about but I've just got to take it on the chin," added McAuley. "He's cut the squad back and myself and a couple of other lads are disappointed.

"He just said to keep doing what you are doing at your club and you will get a chance.

"It's very frustrating, especially after watching the performance against Latvia.

"He said he was going to make changes but I didn't even make the bench for the second game (in Iceland). It is very hard going away for 10 days, rushing back and having no preparation for club games, which is not the best for Leicester."

McAuley, who made his Northern Ireland debut against Germany two years ago, captained City in Tuesday night's scoreless draw with Wolves.

Meanwhile, Keith Gillespie (hamstring) is a major doubt for the trip to Sweden.

Gillespie was forced off midway through the first half of the 3-3 draw with Cardiff at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night.

The former Manchester United and Newcastle United player received treatment on Wednesday morning but it will be 48 hours before the full extent of the injury is known.

Johnson will be sidelined for up to a month after his latest hamstring injury.

The 28-year-old had just returned to fitness after missing the opening six weeks of the campaign with a hamstring problem suffered in a pre-season friendly at Walsall.

But a scan has revealed he tore the other hamstring during Monday's reserve team outing with West Ham.

Northern Ireland, three points behind Sweden and Spain, take on Denmark at Windsor Park on 17 November and end the campaign in Spain four days later.

Belfast Telegraph


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