Belfast Telegraph

Rangers star Andy Little thrilled to receive call from Michael O'Neill

By Stuart McKinley

Rangers striker Andrew Little has been handed the chance to re-establish himself in the Northern Ireland squad after being called-up for Friday's World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan.

Little – called in after Josh Magennis picked up a knee injury – has scored half-a-dozen times for the Gers this season and is on his way towards nailing down a regular first-team slot at Ibrox.

Now his aim will be to do the same at international level after being promoted from the stand-by list for the trip to Baku.

Little revealed the call-up via his Twitter account, saying: "Got a call last night + I've been called into N.Ireland squad for last 2 qualifiers. Delighted to be back involved. Azerbaijan 2moro!"

The 24-year-old hasn't made an international appearance in over a year, having won his last cap as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat against Russia in Moscow in September last year.

Manager Michael O'Neill is keen to get goals into the team and he has rewarded Little for his early season form in Scottish League One.

And his desire to find someone who will hit the net on a regular basis could also bring about a first international start for Inverness CT frontman Billy McKay.

He has been around the squad for the last year, but his only appearances so far were as a substitute in the scoreless friendly against Malta in February and then in last month's defeat in Luxembourg.

The 24-year-old has had to be patient for his opportunity in the green shirt, but has proven himself as a goalscorer in the Scottish Premier League, with eight goals already this season.

And St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Mannus, who managed to keep McKay at bay on Saturday as the Saints beat Caley 4-0, believes it is time for the former Northampton Town striker to be given his chance.

"I played in the game against Malta where he made his debut and I have trained with him a few times too – you can see his quality," said Mannus.

"In the long-term, Kyle Lafferty will probably be the number one choice because he is very effective with his height and does a good job for what Northern Ireland need in terms of being a target man, but there is no reason why Billy can't do well given the amount of goals he's been scoring.

"Kyle is suspended now after his red card against Portugal so Billy should get his chance. Why not? We have got a couple of other good strikers like Will Grigg from Brentford and Huddersfield's Martin Paterson but Billy is up there and should be considered."

Indeed Mannus didn't think that McKay would still be at Inverness this season.

"I'm quite friendly with Billy and I'm surprised he's not had any offers from bigger clubs down south given the amount of goals he scores," said Mannus.

"Billy's one those strikers that is going to guarantee you 20-odd goals a season.

"He scored 27 last year with a club like Inverness, where you don't get as many chances as you would with a bigger side like Celtic, so I thought someone from the Championship might have taken a chance on him."

Belfast Telegraph


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