WORLD CUP QUALIFIER: Northern Ireland keeper Michael McGovern insists Jonny Evans deserves more respect

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans
Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans

Goalkeeper Michael McGovern insists Northern Ireland team-mate Jonny Evans does not command the respect he deserves following a transfer window where he was heavily linked with Arsenal.

The Gunners’ supposed interest in West Brom defender Evans this summer was widely ridiculed on social media, with Arsene Wenger instead splashing out a much larger fee for Valencia’s German international Shkodran Mustafi.

However, McGovern is adamant that a player who was his country’s finest player at Euro 2016 can play for a top club again and questioned why the 28-year-old former Manchester United man is not held in higher regard.

“I don’t think he gets enough respect,” the goalkeeper said.

“At Man United he never got enough respect and he was part of the team that won the league; it was him, (Nemanja) Vidic and (Rio) Ferdinand and Jonny played most of that season.

“He’s a class defender. I don’t know if it’s because he’s British, if he was foreign maybe he’d got more credit. I think he showed at the Euros what a top-class defender he is.

“It’s no surprise that there was a top Premier League team looking at him because I feel he’s more than capable of playing for a top-four team. He’s already proven that and I was surprised that he went to West Brom, in a way, because they got a bargain there. He could definitely still be playing for a top team.”

Evans was a three-time Premier League winner with Manchester United but McGovern thinks he became a scapegoat at Old Trafford when things started to turn south there prior to his move to the midlands in 2015.

“I think sometimes British players get a hard time of it.,” McGovern added.

“There was a time when with Man United a few of the defenders weren’t playing well and Jonny seemed to be talked about in the same bracket as them even though he wasn’t having half as bad a time as them. I think Jonny’s quality.

“I thought he was our best player at the Euros. He’s got the lot. He’s great on the ball, is a ball-playing defender, is really strong, great in the air and talks really well.”

Both McGovern and Evans are in Austria with Northern Ireland’s squad as Michael O’Neill’s side prepare for the start of their World Cup qualifiers and a clash in the Czech Republic this weekend.

It is their first fixture since the Euros, where McGovern moved into the spotlight following an inspired performance against Germany, yet the 32-year-old is not focused on reminiscing about that day.

“The Euros is over and done with, in the past,” he stated.

“We’ve had a taste of success and you want more. It’s a brilliant opportunity to build on it. We’ve never gone into a World Cup qualifying campaign with such confidence. The group’s hard but it’s achievable to get second place, at least.”

Northern Ireland’s preparations for the Czechs have been disrupted by injury and midfielder Michael Duffy is the latest to pull out of O’Neill’s squad.

Duffy was called up following an injury to Craig Cathcart, yet both he and fellow uncapped defender Tom Flanagan have now gone home because of thigh strains.