Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans excited for West Brom challenge after Man United exit

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland star Jonny Evans has revealed his desire to make a big impact at West Bromwich Albion after ending his long association with Manchester United.

The 27-year-old defender moved to the Hawthorns in a deal that will eventually be worth £8 million to the Old Trafford outfit.

He has signed a four year deal with the Baggies and joins international team-mates Gareth McAuley and Chris Brunt at the club.

Ahead of joining up with the Northern Ireland squad for the crucial Euro 2016 qualifiers against the Faroe Islands on Friday and Hungary next Monday night, Evans spoke about embracing a 'new challenge' having left United behind - a club he has been connected with since he was nine when he was invited to attend their Centre of Excellence in Belfast.

"I think there comes a time in everyone's career for a new challenge. It is good to have a new challenge and now it is my time," said Evans.

"I wanted to go somewhere to make an impact and I think West Brom is a place where I can do that."

Evans has not played all season, but WBA boss Tony Pulis is expected to throw his new recruit straight into the first team after the international break when Southampton visit the Hawthorns on September 12.

The Northern Ireland ace added: "I want to play football, make an impact, show my quality and improve the team and push West Brom up the league."

The Belfast Telegraph revealed back in March that Evans would leave United in the summer, knowing that he did not feature in manager Louis van Gaal's future plans.

And the player himself admitted that he was surprised the process of moving on had taken so long.

Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, Stoke and Sunderland, where he previously had spent spells on loan, were keeping an eye on the centre back's situation, but it was West Brom who proved to be keenest of all.

"It's been going on for a month now. It's the first time I've been in this position and it has surprised me how long these things take," said Evans.

"We got there in the end and I'm really pleased to be here."

As well as knowing McAuley and Brunt, Evans is also close friends with former United players Darren Fletcher, the captain at WBA, and goalkeeper Ben Foster.

Evans, who won three Premier League titles with United, said: "I have spoken to Fletch regularly. I rang him just after he made the move to West Brom and he was really enjoying it and saying how much he was enjoying his football.

"That played a big part whenever WBA came in from me. I've been able to speak to Fletch since and he assured me he was still enjoying it which was a big influence.

"I know Ben Foster as well from his time at United. I know a few of the lads coming in which helps. I think I'll have no problems settling in."

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill will be hoping Evans forms a club partnership at the back with McAuley, just as he does at international level.

"There is plenty of competition in the back four but I am used to competing against good centre backs and it won't be any different here as there are some very good experienced players at West Brom," added Evans.

O'Neill will be relieved that Evans has made his move before joining up with the Northern Ireland squad for the campaign defining double header.

Whether Norwich City's Kyle Lafferty makes a switch before the transfer window closes tomorrow remains to be seen.

Like Evans, striker Lafferty, who has scored five goals in the Euro qualifiers so far, has yet to play this season but will be a crucial figure for the trip to the Faroes and Windsor Park clash against Hungary.

It is highly unlikely that Nottingham Forest's Jamie Ward will be involved in the Faroes. He has a hamstring problem which O'Neill hopes will be cleared up by the time the Hungary match comes around next Monday night. Brunt is another injury concern for the Faroes.

"Of the two Chris has the better chance of being fit. We may decide to leave Jamie with his club for a couple of days," said O'Neill.

"Realistically, his better chance is for the second game against Hungary."

O'Neill and his team will train at Bangor's ground this week.

The reason? Purely because Bangor have a synthetic surface like the one Northern Ireland will have to play on in the Faroes.

O'Neill's men have four games to play in Group F.

It is possible though that if all goes according to plan Northern Ireland will have qualified after their next two matches.

They need to win in the Faroes and hope Hungary lose the same evening against group leaders Romania.

Should that happen a victory against Hungary in Belfast would mean Northern Ireland were guaranteed second spot, which is enough to reach next year's finals in France.

And then the fun will begin, not just for supporters arranging trips but also players hopeful of making O'Neill's squad.

One player in that boat would be Ryan McLaughlin.

He is not in the panel for the forthcoming matches, but having moved from Liverpool to Aberdeen on loan the young right back will feel that by playing regular football in Scotland he can force his way into the manager's plans .

Abderdeen boss Derek McInnes said: "Ryan has the quality needed to play with us at Aberdeen and we are looking forward to working closely with him."

Belfast Telegraph


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