Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill doesn’t want to risk injury to Rangers defender Gareth McAuley, explaining his decision to not call him up to his latest squad.
The international outfit play two matches this month against Austria and Bosnian & Herzegovina, but O’Neill has called on the veteran defender to improve his fitness before considering bringing him back into the fold.
As quoted by The Daily Record, O’Neill said:
Gareth just needs to get daily training at a good intensity with players, otherwise he is a huge injury risk, and that’s a risk I am not willing to take with him.
It wasn’t a risk I thought was fair for Rangers either.
So it is in everyone’s best interests that Gareth gets playing with Rangers. It isn’t going to help him coming away with us for 10 days because there is a temptation for me to use him.
Gareth is fit, but he was fit because he was keeping himself fit. He wasn’t football fit. At 38, when you go in training, you need to be managed very carefully. But I hope to have him back for next month’s games.
Given he has yet to make a single appearance for Steven Gerrard’s side, it’s pleasing to here that O’Neill is not willing to put his squad’s chances of positive results ahead of the player’s need to get up to scratch.
Gerrard is blessed with a few good central defenders already at Ibrox but the experience and quality of McAuley could prove vital as the season wears on.
Hopefully he gets over his fitness problems and makes his debut sooner rather than later.