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What does future hold for Northern Ireland’s Premier League stars?



Most footballers have already packed their bags and if they aren’t already on a close-season break they’ll be about to head off pretty soon.

For some, it won’t be just bags that they’ll pack.Boxes will be filled and removal vans booked as the summer transfer window clicks into action and they head for pastures new, with the market expected to really hot up and go into full swing sometime between the end of the World Cup and the August 31 deadline.

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And what Northern Ireland fans want to know isn’t whether or not Liverpool will sell Steven Gerrard and/or Fernando Torres, or if Chelsea and Manchester City will splash even more ridiculous sums of cash on players — some of whom rank only slightly above the average mark.

No, the burning question over here will centre around the future of our own men in the top flight and in the main David Healy. A move from Sunderland, where he has only played 18 times since signing in August 2008, looks all but certain and every member of the Green and White Army will want to know where he’s going.

Rangers? Well, they’ve been mentioned plenty of times in the past. A return to Ipswich Town, where he had a loan spell, is also a possibility.

And after falling out of favour with manager Steve Bruce at the Stadium of Light, Healy’s club and international colleague George McCartney looks like joining him in heading through the exit door, just two years after returning to Sunderland in a £7million deal.

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If he can overcome his injury problems there are likely to be a few takers.

Since he took the Northern Ireland manager’s job Nigel Worthington has spent more time watching Championship football in England rather than the Premier League when monitoring his international squad.

Although last season that trend looked to be on the turn, with with no less than eight potential members of his squad strutting their stuff in what is widely regarded as the best league in the world, the problem for Worthington is that his Premier League representation is dwindling after Burnley’s relegation and looks very much like falling even further in the coming weeks.

At least Aaron Hughes, Chris Baird and to a slightly lesser extent Jonny Evans have been playing regularly and Chris Brunt is on his way up.

Next season will be a big one for Evans at Manchester United after signing a new four-year contract. It’s unlikely he’ll be followed by younger brother Corry just yet, with a loan move for him expected. Nottingham Forest have already been mentioned and the pressure of chasing promotion from the Championship would be an excellent chance for him to show what he can do.

Under-21 international Oliver Norwood has signed a new new two-year contract at United, but first-team prospects are still some time off. He’s definitely on Sir Alex Ferguson’s radar though. Also at United Craig Cathcart is out of contract this summer and it will be Sir Alex Ferguson who will decide his future. He has had loan spells at Plymouth Argyle and Watford, so if he does leave the 21-year-old shouldn’t be short of a club.

Maik Taylor will have to decide if he’s happy to sit on the bench at Birmingham City or look for first-team football elsewhere, but with his 39th birthday looming that won’t be easy.

All the signs point to an interesting summer and it looks like being a busy one too — especially if you happen to be a removal man.

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