FOOTBALL: Northern Ireland squad named

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington on Monday revealed a 20-man squad for next week's friendly with Scotland at Hampden Park.

The international boss is ultimately gearing up for next month's opening salvo in the World Cup qualifying campaign, but first up is an intriguing fixture against the Scots.

And included in Worthington's latest squad is Hibernian midfielder Dean Shiels who returns from the international wilderness.

The 23-year-old hasn't played for his country since the start of last year when he featured in a 0-0 friendly draw with Wales at Windsor Park.

It is a welcome return for Shiels, and Worthington is pleased to have the former Arsenal youth player on board.

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Maik Taylor (Birmingham City),Alan Mannus (Linfield)

Defenders: Chris Baird (Fulham), Aaron Hughes (Fulham), Stephen Craigan (Motherwell), Gareth McAuley (Ipswich Town), George McCartney (West Ham United), Jonathan Evans (Manchester United), Michael Duff (Burnley)

Midfielders: Steve Davis (Fulham), Keith Gillespie (Sheffield United), Michael O'Connor (Crewe Alexandra), Sammy Clingan (Norwich City), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Dean Shiels (Hibernian)

Strikers: David Healy (Fulham), Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Peter Thompson (Stockport County), Warren Feeney (Dundee United), Martin Paterson (Burnley)

Worthington said: "We are pretty lightweight in wide areas and Dean is very capable in that kind of position.

"So I have brought him in to see him in training and also because we are not blessed with a huge amount of wide players," the international boss said.

"Two areas we have to focus on at grassroots level is wide midfield and also goalkeeping. We are very short on numbers for those areas at this moment in time, so Dean's arrival is welcome."

Another player who returns to the fold is Burnley defender Michael Duff.

Duff hasn't been seen since last September's double-header with Latvia and Iceland after suffering a cruciate ligament injury.

"Michael is a great professional. He has had a horrendous time with injury, but he is back fit and healthy which is a great boost," Worthington added.

"That adds further strength to our defence for the forthcoming campaign as far as numbers are concerned."

Two players missing from the 20-man squad are Derby County goalkeeper Roy Carroll and new Celtic signing Pat McCourt.

"Patrick was one I considered, and I spoke with the coaching staff at Celtic to see how he has done since his move there.

Unfortunately for Patrick he has had a bit of a hamstring strain and only played his first game last Tuesday," Worthington revealed.

"Fitness-wise he was someway off the mark, and it was thought he would be better staying at his football club and getting some work in and improving his fitness."