Belfast Telegraph

McAuley's international future still hangs in the balance

By Mark McIntosh

Gareth McAuley's inclusion in the Northern Ireland squad this week has done little to convince him he has a future at international level.

The Leicester City skipper is almost certain to start tomorrow night's crunch Euro 2008 qualifier in Sweden following a spate of withdrawals and suspensions but the ex-Coleraine man is keeping his options open come the end of the campaign.

McAuley, who has been made club captain by new Foxes boss Gary Megson, stated he would make a decision on his long-term international future in November in the aftermath of only making it on the standby list in Nigel Worthington's original squad.

In an open and frank interview, the 27-year-old explained why his international career may be coming to an end before it ever had a chance to begin.

" Nigel phoned me to say I was on standby and I went away from the call thinking 'I've been playing every week, the new gaffer has just made me skipper at Leicester and what more can I do to actually get into the squad," said McAuley, who will earn only his sixth cap tomorrow night at the Rasunda Stadium - his first in a competitive fixture.

"I'm 27 now and there isn't much point in travelling everywhere with the squad if I'm going to be a spectator in the stand.

"If that was going to be the case every time, I think it would be better to bring one of the under-21 players in to let them gain a bit of experience.

"I'm back in the squad now and I am delighted to have a chance of playing but there is no point in me running away from the situation.

"This might upset a few people but there is no point in telling any lies here; at the end of this campaign I will have a think about where my international career is going.

"When you don't even make the bench it is difficult getting up at 4am to fly home and then you run the risk of losing your club place for the next match.

"It does get you down. I know I'm in a privileged position but this sort of thing could affect my club career and I can't let that happen."

With Chris Baird, Michael Duff and Jonny Evans all missing, skipper Aaron Hughes will return to the line-up against the Swedes with Stephen Craigan his partner in the centre of the defence.

That leaves McAuley to fill the void at right-back and he can't wait for the challenge, if selected.

"The manager has been keeping his cards close to his chest but if I'm asked to play at right-back I am ready," added McAuley. "I've played most of my international games there and this is my chance to win a place in the side."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph