FOOTBALL: Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill sure Jonny Evans will deliver

Jonny Evans
Jonny Evans

Northern Ireland Michael O’Neill is sure Jonny Evans’ head will be in the right place for the World Cup Qualifiers against San Marino and the Czech Republic.

O’Neill’s men travel to San Marino on September 1 before facing the Czech’s in Belfast on September 4 knowing that two good results could secure them second place in Group C behind pace setters Germany.

And O’Neill - who named Evans in his squad yesterday - is sure the interest from Manchester City in the West Brom defender will not unsettle his player.

“For the player it is important that it is settled sooner rather than later but typically these things aren’t.

“It can drag on and drag right to the last day of the window which isn’t ideal but we just have to deal with it.

“It’s something you can’t pre-empt how you will handle it.

“It’s just something you have to make sure that when he comes in Jonny is ready to play and with Jonny he is mature enough to deal with all that.

“Whilst it’s not ideal, It’s something we won’t have much control over there.”

And O’Neill believes the former Manchester United defender would fit in well at City if the deal goes ahead.

“It’s not for me to say. They obviously see something in Jonny which they think will improve their team.

“I think what Jonny offers is a lot of flexibility in the sense he can play in a flat back four, in a back three and we have played him at left back on occasions.

“So the ability to play in a number of positions is great from a defensive point of view.

“Centre halves are hard to find at the minute.

“It seems a lot of clubs are struggling to find.. and when you’ve got someone as versatile as Jonny who can play right side or left side and is comfortable playing in either systems, he’ll be a good player for whoever he ends up playing for,” said O’Neill.

And the Northern Ireland boss admits his players know how important these next two matches are if they are to stand any chance of making the Finals in Russia.

“Yes they were aware of it after the Azerbaijan game. You could sense it when we were travelling back and chatting to them after the game that three points there gives us a real position of strength in the group.

“Obviously with the Czech Republic playing Germany, that is going to be a very difficult game for them and then they come here to play us in Belfast.

“But there is still lots of football to be played in the group. We have to play the Czech Republic, Germany and Norway and those are tough games to finish with.”