Northern Ireland transfer round-up: What the transfer window could mean for our international stars
There's been plenty of Northern Ireland player movement during this summer transfer window.
Immediately after the Central American tour, Jonny Evans left West Brom for Leicester City while versatile Paddy McNair, who had been tipped to join Premier League outfit Brighton, remained in the north east of England when Middlesbrough won the battle to sign the former Manchester United starlet from Sunderland.
Gavin Whyte’s proposed move from Premiership champions Crusaders to Leeds United fell through but the talented Belfast lad managed to secure a transfer to League One Oxford United.
In recent days, strikers Josh Magennis and Kyle Lafferty look set to leave their respective clubs, Charlton and Hearts, after interest from Bolton Wanderers and Rangers.
But vastly experienced defender Gareth McAuley remains unsigned after leaving West Brom following seven years at The Hawthorns while Big G’s international colleague Aaron Hughes, who was flirting with retirement, has opted to kick that thought into touch for another season and has taken up Hearts’ offer of a new one-year contract.
There had been speculation Steven Davis may leave Southampton but he remains at St Mary’s.
Here, Sunday Life statistician Marshall Gillespie details 30 Northern Ireland players who will be available to international boss Michael O’Neill for the Nations League in September and the clubs they will be playing for this season.
On the move: Confirmed
Jonny Evans (Leicester City - defender)
Age 30; 70 caps – 2 goals
Following West Brom’s relegation from the Premier League last term interest in the former Manchester United centre-back was high. However it was Leicester City who secured his signature on a three-year deal for £3.5m. He should form a formidable partnership with England’s Harry Maguire at the King Power Stadium this season.
Gareth McAuley (Unattached - defender)
Age 38; 79 caps – 9 goals
The former Crusaders defender was released by relegated West Brom after seven years of sterling service for the Baggies. It had been rumoured that Rangers had been in contact with McAuley’s agent while there is also supposed interest from Championship outfit Aston Villa.
Paddy McNair (Middlesbrough - midfielder)
Age 24; - 20 caps – 0 goals
He made the big money move to ‘Boro from Sunderland following the Black Cats relegation from the Championship. Now firmly established as a central midfielder the Ballyclare man will be hoping to stay injury free as Tony Pulis’ side make a strong bid for promotion.
Jordan Thompson (Blackpool - midfielder)
Age 21; 2 caps – 0 goals
Thompson was released by Rangers last month after three seasons at Ibrox. The former Manchester United youngster signed a two-year deal with League One side Blackpool.
Gavin Whyte (Oxford United - midfielder)
Age 22; Uncapped
Despite speculation that he was on his way to Leeds United over the summer the former Crusaders winger eventually signed a three-year deal with League One outfit Oxford United.
Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers - forward)
Age 27; 38 caps – 4 goals
Charlton Athletic’s top scorer last season is heading for the Championship and Bolton Wanderers. The Addicks turned down a bid from fellow League One side Peterborough United for his services but couldn't stave off interest from Phil Parkinson's Trotters. Michael O'Neill will be pleased to see another NI star moving up a division.
On the move: Rumoured
Conor Hazard (Celtic - goalkeeper)
Age 20; 1 cap
Hazard had a productive spell on loan at Falkirk at the back-end of last season and Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers may feel another loan stint would be useful.
Lee Hodson (Rangers - defender)
Age 26; 24 caps – 0 goals
Hodson has reportedly been told by new Rangers boss Steven Gerrard that he can leave Ibrox. St Mirren, Rotherham United and his former club Kilmarnock are all believed to be interested in obtaining his services before the transfer window closes next month.
Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock - midfielder)
Age 23; 2 caps – 0 goals
Another player hyped to be moving on to pastures new with Sunderland, Derby County and Hull City all expressing an interest in capturing the former Middlesbrough winger’s signature.
Ollie Norwood (Brighton - midfielder)
Age 27; 53 caps – 0 goals
Norwood has featured in pre-season friendlies, however boss Chris Hughton is willing to listen to offers for the former Manchester United player. Newly promoted Fulham as well as Hull City have both made enquiries about him.
Kyle Lafferty (Hearts - forward)
Age 30; 67 caps – 20 goals
After scoring 19 goals for Hearts last season, Rangers boss Steven Gerrard wants the Northern Ireland striker back at Ibrox. Hearts are desperate to keep hold of their hitman (right) and turned down Rangers’ initial bid but the Glasgow giants are expected to come back with an improved offer.
Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest - forward)
Age 32; 33 caps – 4 goals
The diminutive forward has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Forest over the past few seasons and has been farmed out on loan to both Burton and Cardiff. Unlikely to feature much at the City Ground this season which could see a further loan move or a permanent deal materialise before the transfer window shuts.
Likely to stay put
Michael McGovern (Norwich City - goalkeeper)
Age 34; 28 caps
Last season McGovern was number two at Carrow Road to Angus Gunn which restricted him to just one appearance. Could well be back-up keeper again this term following the arrival of former Newcastle stopper Tim Krul.
Trevor Carson (Motherwell - goalkeeper)
Age 30; 3 caps
Carson must now be considered as a genuine challenger for Michael McGovern’s jersey when the autumn internationals arrive. The former Sunderland player will again be a regular between the posts for Stephen Robinson’s Motherwell this term.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds United - goalkeeper)
Age 21; 1 cap
He finished last season as United’s first choice keeper. However, he now faces competition for a first-team place after Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa signed Chelsea’s Jamal Blackman on a season-long loan.
Craig Cathcart (Watford - defender)
Age 29; 36 caps – 2 goals
The 2017/18 campaign was a virtual write-off for Cathcart due to a knee injury. However, he has now fully recovered and with a full pre-season behind him he should be challenging for a first-team place at Vicarage Road come next month.
Aaron Hughes (Hearts - defender)
Age 38; 112 caps – 1 goal
Even at 38, Hearts boss Craig Levein was delighted to have Hughes sign on at Tynecastle for another 12 months. While he is unlikely to play on a regular basis for the Edinburgh side his experience will be invaluable when called upon by either club or country.
Jamal Lewis (Norwich City - defender)
Age 20; 1 cap – 0 goals
Michael O’Neill will be watching Lewis’ development at Carrow Road very closely and if Chris Brunt does retire from international football he looks the natural successor for the left-back spot. He should be a regular starter for the Canaries in the Championship this term.
Conor McLaughlin (Millwall - defender)
Age 26; 33 caps – 1 goal
After making just one appearance for the Lions since the turn of the year, McLaughlin will be seeking to regain his right-back spot for 2018/19. He has featured in all of the Lions’ pre-season games to date.
Luke McCullough (Doncaster - defender)
Age 24; 6 caps – 0 goals
The former Manchester United trainee has suffered very badly with injuries over the past couple of years. Playing week-in week-out should help him force his way back into the international manager’s plans.
Stuart Dallas (Leeds United - midfielder)
Age 27; 30 caps – 2 goals
Now in his fourth season at Elland Road, Dallas will be using pre-season matches to go out and show yet another new manager, Marcelo Bielsa, that he is worth a place in the starting line-up for the coming campaign.
Steven Davis (Southampton - midfielder)
Age 33; 101 caps – 10 goals
Davis missed most of the second-half of last term with hamstring and Achilles injuries. Now fully fit, he still has a year remaining on his contract at St Mary’s despite speculation that he could make a return to Scotland with Rangers.
Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers - midfielder)
Age 28; 47 caps – 1 goal
Back in the Championship after helping Blackburn to promotion. It will be a big plus for boss O’Neill to have Evans playing a higher level of football on a regular basis this term.
Shane Ferguson (Millwall - midfielder)
Age 27; 35 caps – 1 goal
Like Conor McLaughlin he lost his place in the Millwall side at the turn of the year. Is determined though to stay at the New Den and fight for a first-team chance and so far he has impressed in Millwall’s pre-season outings.
Niall McGinn (Aberdeen - midfielder)
Age 31; 53 caps – 3 goals
McGinn’s brief spell in South Korea saw him struggle to maintain a place in the international squad. With competition for wide places in the Northern Ireland panel hotting up the former Dungannon Swifts player needs to hit the ground running for Aberdeen this season.
George Saville (Millwall - midfielder)
Age 25; 5 caps – 0 goals
Seen by many as the natural successor to skipper Steven Davis, Saville was one of the stand-out performers in the Championship last term as Millwall just missed out on promotion.
Liam Boyce (Burton Albion - forward)
Age 27; 13 caps – 1 goal
After missing the first half of the campaign through serious injury, Boyce showed his undoubted class towards the end of last season despite Burton being relegated from the Championship. His quality could see him among the top goalscorers in League One this term.
Shayne Lavery (Everton - forward)
Age 19; 1 cap – 0 goals
After being given his international debut by Michael O’Neill last May, Lavery went on to sign a year’s deal with Premier League side Everton last month. He will be looking to boost his chances of further international recognition by breaking into the first-team squad at Goodison this term.
Paul Smyth (QPR - forward)
Age 20; 2 caps – 1 goal
Smyth was a breath of fresh air when he burst onto the club and international scene after leaving Linfield last summer. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the enthusiasm and momentum though under new QPR manager Steve McClaren this term.
Conor Washington (QPR - forward)
Age 26; 17 caps – 3 goals
After a disappointing campaign last time out where he scored just six goals it had been rumoured that his former club Peterborough United were keen on taking him back to the ABAX Stadium. Positively though, he has again been given the number nine shirt for the forthcoming season as he looks to impress new boss McClaren in QPR’s Championship campaign.
Belfast Telegraph Digital