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O'Neill challenges Will Grigg to grasp Championship opportunity and make breakthrough

 

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Will Grigg

Will Grigg

Getty Images

Will Grigg

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has challenged striker Will Grigg to grasp his chance in the Championship this season and make his breakthrough.

Grigg made his return to the Northern Ireland squad on Thursday for the first time since November 2016 for the upcoming friendly with Israel and UEFA Nations League game with Bosnia-Herzegovinia.

The Northern Ireland manager said he was glad to have Grigg back in the squad.

"I kept in constant communication with Will (Grigg). He was unavailable to us because of an injury for a long time and then he had some personal issues and he didn't want to be selected," O'Neill told the BBC.

"I didn't bring him away in the summer because I thought he'd had a long enough season and didn't need to be playing additional football.

"He's a player that we know, he hasn't really made the break through yet but he's capable of it. He's had a good start to the Championship with Wigan and we like having him in the squad."

O'Neill said he hoped a return to Rangers would bring the best to Kyle Lafferty.

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"The case for Kyle is to take the last twelve months at Hearts and bring it to Rangers, if he continues to do that he'll be a big asset for Rangers and they'll love having him," he said.

"He's at a club where he dearly loves to be at and hopefully we see that in his international form aswell."

The former Northern Ireland midfielder stressed the need for defender Gareth McAuley to find a new club but said he believes the ex West Brom player still has plenty left in the tank.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye

Freddie Parkinson

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill. Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye

"It's vital and he knows that you can't continue to play international football without a club. He's in the squad, how realistic it is for him to take part in the games we'll determine when we see him," O'Neill said.

"I'm hopeful that his club situation will be sorted out, you look at his fitness and he's a great professional and he's still got a lot to offer. I'm not talking about just this season, I think he can comfortably play for another two seasons and it's important to have him in the squad."

Youngsters Gavin Whyte and Paul Smyth were not included in the squad and O'Neill said players could not expect to walk into the team after moving to full-time football.

"They are both very, very young players they've not really played that much football. Gavin Whyte's done well at Oxford, played two games and scored two goals but they are both part of the U21's and they have a very important game away to Spain and they can still challenge to finish second in the group which could lead to a place in the finals," he said.

"We look at every opportunity in terms of players whether that's through eligibility or through the development of our own players, we look at young Bobby Burns whose gone to Hearts but there has been a process, we're not at a point yet where automatically as soon as you get to full-time football you're an international player.

"We've been ranked as high as 20th in the world and we've had two great campaigns so players have to do a bit more before they push to come into the squad.

"I would love to see more players emerge here from the domestic game and more of our younger players emerge when they go across to England, we're not seeing that. It's very difficult for a young player when they go across at this minute in time and we'll always be looking out for that player with the bloodline."


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