The trio of West Bromwich Albion stars Chris Brunt, Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans have been called up by the Northern Ireland national football team to represent the country during the forthcoming international break.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill named the squad to play Azerbaijan and Croatia in November as they seek a spot in Russia 2018 finals.
The third international break of the current season would see Northern Ireland play Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier, and Croatia in a friendly four days after. O’Neill invited Norwich’s Michael McGovern, Alan Mannus who plays for St. Johnstone and Hartlepool United’s Trevor Carson as likely shot stoppers in the 25-man list.
O’Neill would be hoping that the invited players get the required result against Azerbaijan.
“With seven points from nine, they [Azerbaijan] have had a good start and not conceded a goal. They are not a team that is going to come and attack us, they will be well organised and we expect it will be very difficult. When we look at the group, these are the games that we feel will be key leading into where we finish,” he said.
Aaron Hughes, Ryan McGivern, Conor McLaughlin, Lee Hodson, and Tom Flanagan are expected to join the West Brom trio in defence. Any of Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Will Grigg will place in front ahead of any of Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Ollie Norwood, Corry Evans, Jamie Ward, Shane Ferguson, Stuart Dallas, Paddy McNair, Paul Paton and Matthew Lund Rochdale.
Brunt is returning after a serious injury to the knee in February. Grigg was missing due to personal issues but is expected to play. Michael Smith and Liam Boyce were excluded despite being called for the October games. Paton and Hughes were invited despite being invited to the last games due to an injury crisis.