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McNair on path back to top: O'Neill

 

Job in hand: Michael O’Neill announces his NI squad yesterday
Job in hand: Michael O’Neill announces his NI squad yesterday

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill believes Euro 2020 qualifying hero Paddy McNair is making up for lost time and has what it takes to return to the Premier League.

McNair started his career at Manchester United before moving to Sunderland, where he suffered a serious injury. Now at Middlesbrough, he is shining at club level having scored a brilliant late winner for his country in Belarus in June to take O'Neill's side to the top of Group C with four victories out of four in qualifying.

McNair will be a key figure against Germany at Windsor Park next month in a vital Euro 2020 clash, with O'Neill convinced the midfielder can become a top-flight player again.

O'Neill said: "A lot of what has happened to Paddy hasn't been of his own making. He had a bad knee injury when he went to Sunderland and subsequently transferred to Middlesbrough but didn't play that much last season," said O'Neill.

"This season he is playing and he scored a great goal against Millwall on Saturday when he was the best player on the pitch. Paddy is now making up for lost time, and when I watch Championship football he looks to me like a player who can kick on to the next level where he started his career."

Naming his squad for the game with Germany on September 9 and a home friendly versus Luxembourg four days before, O'Neill had no place for Kyle Lafferty despite his move to Norwegian club Sarpsborg 08 or Linfield's in-form striker Shayne Lavery.

The latter is included in the U-21 panel for games with Malta and Finland.

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