Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

Fixtures & Results

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Saville woe gives McLaughlin NI chance

By Adam McKendry

Oldham Athletic defender Ryan McLaughlin has replaced George Saville in the Northern Ireland squad for their friendlies against Costa Rica and Panama next week.

Saville misses out with a dead leg sustained for club Millwall a month ago, which kept him out for the final two games of the season.

The coaching staff hoped he would have recovered from in time to make the trip, but it has come too soon.

It's a blow for Saville, who had impressed when given the chance during the World Cup qualifying campaign, and is further concern for Michael O'Neill who is now without three front-line midfielders with Steven Davis and Ollie Norwood also unavailable.

Instead, McLaughlin - the brother of fellow Northern Ireland international Conor, who is also in the squad for the two friendly matches - will link up with the squad tomorrow when they fly out to Central America from London.

McLaughlin (23), who has made three appearances for the national team, is a right-sided defender who came up through the age grades at Liverpool, appearing at every level from Under-18s to Under-23s.

The pacy wing-back has had loan spells with Barnsley and Aberdeen before Liverpool let him go to current club Oldham at the start of the 2016/17 season on a free transfer.

While he hasn't made an appearance for Northern Ireland since 2015, McLaughlin has never been far from the squad and has been included on the bench several times since, most recently for the 2-0 win over the Czech Republic last September.

He'll get the chance to impress O'Neill against two sides who will be heading to the World Cup in Russia next month and stake a claim to be heavily involved in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Belfast Telegraph

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