Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans sees old teammate Rooney in youngster Shayne Lavery

Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans

By Paul Ferguson

With a great big dose of perspective, Jonny Evans admits he can see the similarities between Northern Ireland new boy Shayne Lavery and his old pal and team-mate Wayne Rooney.

Everton Under-23 striker Lavery, who made his international debut against Panama last week, revealed that his idol growing up was, in fact, the former Manchester United superstar and, during the last year since Rooney's return to Goodison Park, he has been fortunate to gain valuable advice from England's leading goalscorer.

Northern Ireland skipper Evans (below), having come up against 19-year-old Lavery in training during the last week, insists the ex-Glenavon starlet not only has a similar build to Rooney but attempts to play the game in the same way.

"Shayne came on the other night and he is the one that everyone (in the squad) is really impressed with," says Evans.

"He's got a great workrate to his game and he leads from the front. I noticed that in the Under-21 game against Spain in March. He makes very clever runs.

"Obviously you can never tell (if they are going to make it), but he has great attributes and great appetite for the game.

"A few of the lads have already mentioned that he's got the same sort of build and stature as Wayne. The way he runs and chases players down. Hopefully he fulfils his potential and has a big future for us."

Boss Michael O'Neill agrees with his skipper, saying: "He's that type of build. For a young age he's capable of playing against men. You never know with young players and how they might progress. Shayne's a player that we are excited about. We hope in the next 12 to 18 months his progression is maybe a little bit quicker than it has been in the last 12 months."

Evans, due to Northern Ireland's lengthy absentee list, will once again play in O'Neill's midfield today alongside his brother Corry and Paddy McNair.

It will be just the second time he has ever played with his brother in midfield.

His experience though, having performed in the position for West Brom, will be vital as Northern Ireland attempt to end this Central American tour unbeaten.

Evans concedes he is happy to perform the midfield role on this tour but will be looking forward to returning back to his defensive duties in September when the Nations League takes place.

"It's a different challenge for me," adds Evans. "I always find it enjoyable playing different positions - not for a long sustained period of time because you always have your favourite position you like playing, but I've played left back and right back for Northern Ireland and it's always a good challenge to try and see how different positions work and can you adapt.

"But I don't think my brother and I have ever played in midfield together apart from the Panama."

Evans, once this tour is over, will hope to get his club future sorted, with a number of suitors interested, but it looks increasingly likely he will leave West Brom for another Premier League club, especially as he has £3million release clause.

Our coverage of Northern Ireland's tour to play Panama and Costa Rica is brought to you in conjunction with BetMcLean.

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