Jonny Evans has no intention of walking away from Northern Ireland

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​Jonny Evans has insisted he wants to keep playing for Northern Ireland for as long as he remains a professional footballer.

Evans is in line to captain his country against Denmark on Friday night, earning his 101st cap at the age of 35.

After an injury-ravaged season which ended in the disappointment of relegation with Leicester, Evans is out of contract at the King Power this summer but the club said they were in talks over a new deal.

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Given the amount of time he has missed, Evans would have been forgiven for considering international retirement after reaching his century of caps in Greece last September, but the Belfast-born defender said that had never been on his mind.

Jonny Evans is set to captain Northern Ireland against Denmark on Friday evening in Copenhagen.Jonny Evans is set to captain Northern Ireland against Denmark on Friday evening in Copenhagen.
Jonny Evans is set to captain Northern Ireland against Denmark on Friday evening in Copenhagen.

“No. I’ve never felt like I would separate the two (club and country),” he said. “Probably with the injuries, there maybe was a time where I thought I was just coming to that age where I feel like my body can’t handle it any more.

“But I played the three games at the end of the season and I felt good in them. I want to keep playing, and that’ll be the same at club level and international football.”

Evans returned from two months out to start Leicester’s final three games of the season, but admitted he was still unsure over his fitness levels after a campaign in which he managed only 14 club appearances.

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“It’s hard to know where I’m at,” he said. “But I think those three games I was involved in were good for me, I was just glad to get through them.”

A 2-1 win over West Ham on the final day of the season was not enough to spare Leicester from the drop as Everton beat Bournemouth to survive. Evans is still dealing with the disappointment, but said coming away with Northern Ireland offered a welcome change of scenery.

“International football has always been that for you,” he said. “You go back home and I always feel that when you go back home you are grounded a little bit.

“There is a calmness to it and it gives you something inside. I’ve always felt that. For example, I’ve known Craig (Cathcart) since I was 10 years old and meeting up again is like getting back together.

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“All of the staff and Michael (O’Neill) coming back in. We have been through a lot together over the years so I always feel that and always enjoy that. It’s a nice feeling to have.”

Evans also has happy memories of Copenhagen, having earned his second cap here in a 0-0 draw with Denmark in 2006.

If Northern Ireland could repeat that on Friday, it would give fresh impetus to their hopes of reaching Euro 2024 after the setback of March’s 1-0 loss to Finland in Belfast.

That was O’Neill’s first game back at Windsor Park since returning to the job in December. Evans said having the man who led Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 back in the dugout has given the players fresh belief.

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“With Michael, even when he left to go to Stoke we kept in touch,” he said. “Michael has been a constant throughout my career. We had a big long spell together in his first time in charge and I’ve always felt like we had a great relationship.

“When I found out there was a chance he was getting the job we were all delighted and there was the odd text to make sure he took up that opportunity. It’s been great working with him again.

“Obviously we managed to do alright the last time and with Michael’s planning and the way he approaches things, and his relationship with the players which he has always valued goes a long way.”