Belfast Telegraph

McGovern urges Northern Ireland veterans to stay on and chase Euro 2020 joy


By Paul Ferguson in Basel

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern hopes any of his team-mates considering international retirement will suspend those thoughts until after the 2020 Euros.

The Norwich City shot-stopper sees no reason why there should be a raft of retirements following Sunday's exit from the World Cup play-offs.

Michael O'Neill's squad have 11 players over the age of 30, the average age is 29, and there are serious concerns that Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley and Aaron Hughes may call time on their international careers.

McGovern, though, believes while a number of the top players are in advancing football years, they still, as proved in Basel, possess the quality needed to qualify for the 2020 European Championships.

"I'm hoping nobody retires because we don't have an abundance of talent coming through," conceded the 33-year-old, who hopes to be Northern Ireland's No.1 for many more years.

"It would be brilliant if we could keep everyone together for one more campaign because the Euros is a much easier tournament to qualify for. I don't see why any of the boys after their performance in Basel should be thinking about retiring, although that's a personal decision."

Boss O'Neill, it appears, is a wanted man with the Belfast Telegraph understanding the Scottish FA are keen to talk to the Edinburgh-based manager, while Sunderland have also considered the 48-year-old.

O'Neill has weaved his magic over the last four years and made Northern Ireland a real force in European football. McGovern would love the man who made him the top goalkeeper in Northern Ireland to stay on.

McGovern argues that after such a long bleak period for Northern Ireland football, it is imperative the players and management stay together.

The Fermanagh native said: "I think we can do one more campaign at least with this group of players and manager. Things have been going so well and we've waited I don't know how many years for this good spell.

"Michael's stock is so high at the minute. We would love him to stay, but I'm sure there will be interest. Michael is his own man and makes his own decisions.

"If he's here for the next campaign, we will be absolutely delighted as players."

There has been consternation in Northern Ireland over an incorrect penalty decision by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan during the first leg, but McGovern insists nothing can be done to change the result, Northern Ireland are not going to the World Cup and it is a waste of energy to concern themselves with what might have been.

"It's hard to accept but we must move on," he added.

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