Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander praises Northern Ireland recruit Conor McLaughlin

Jamie Ward has withdrawn from Northern Ireland's squad
Jamie Ward has withdrawn from Northern Ireland's squad

Fleetwood Town boss Graham Alexander believes Conor McLaughlin’s call-up to the Northern Ireland squad is “thoroughly deserved”.

Defender McLaughlin has been drafted into Michael O’Neill’s panel for the forthcoming tour of South America.

It follows the late withdrawal of Derby County striker Jamie Ward for the games against Uruguay and Chile.

McLaughlin will feature in Fleetwood’s League Two play-off final against Southend on Monday before flying out to join up with the Northern Ireland squad.

“It’s thoroughly deserved. He’s had a great season so far. He has one more game to do for us before he relaxes and goes to be an international,” Alexander said.

“We knew there was interest from the manager a few weeks ago but we were fully behind that because he’s good enough. It’s an honour for the club to have a current international playing for us.

“It’s great for Conor because he deserves it, it’s great for us because we want to see our players do well.

“But he has to focus on Monday, and Monday only, then I’ll let him think about South America afterwards.”

Ward, whose Rams side take on QPR in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday, feels it is “not in his best interests or the interests of the international squad for him to travel to South America due to his extended club season”, the Irish Football Association said in a statement.