Martin O’Neill to call up QPR striker Conor Washington

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Conor Washington has the chance of a lifetime to bag a place in France.

Michael O’Neill will call up the QPR striker to his Northern Ireland squad, to face Wales and Slovenia in this month’s double-header, after having kept close tabs on him for almost a year.

Michael O’Neill will call up the QPR striker to his Northern Ireland squad, to face Wales and Slovenia in this month’s double-header, after having kept close tabs on him for almost a year.

The 23-year old moved to Loftus Road in January from Peterborough, and stole O’Neill’s attention by scoring in Posh’s 2-0 win over Luton Town.

O’Neill, who was there to watch Pat McCourt and Michael Smith, said: “I intend to include him in March, he’s very keen and I think he’s still finding his feet at QPR. The games he has started in he’s played well, and I think he needs to get a goal to get him going a bit.

“But his performances have been good and he’s in a group of players who have a chance of going to a the European finals.

“He’s very, very keen to be involved and it’s refreshing to see his excitement at the prospect of playing international football.

“We had known about Conor for a while. He’s not just one who popped up when we qualified, we knew about him when he transferred from Peterborough from Newport, because his agent is a lad who played with me at Wigan, Kevin Nicholls.

“But it just took him a bit of time to settle, the change in manager helped him no doubt, he has flourished under Graham Westley, but it just didn’t seem the right time to bring him in, in those last few qualifiers.”

Washington is also eligible to declare for Scotland, but despite interest from Gordon Strachan’s set-up, the Chatham-born forward is determined to turn out in green and white.

“We’ve watched him now for the best part of over a year, and in the early days he wasn’t flourishing, it was taking him time,” added O’Neill.

“This season in particular, we’ve seen what he is about and he has a bit of self-belief himself.

“He’s got himself to a higher level again and now has to go and replicate what he did for Peterborough.”

Meanwhile, O’Neill confirmed he would sign a new four-year deal with the Irish FA this week, which includes a compensation clause. If he were to be lured to a new deal, the IFA would receive a £750,000 pay-out. He said: “We hope to have everything finalised within the next week. It’s been held up, not because of any specific reason, but drawing up the legalities of a contract takes a bit of time. Patrick (Nelson) and I have been away, and it just takes time.

“But there’s no discussions over the terms of the contract which need to be outlined, it’s just a case of getting the paperwork in order.”