O'Neill looking at squad

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill is hoping to have a better idea about the depth of his squad by the time he leaves Turkey.

Last Updated: 15/11/13 at 18:40   

Michael O'Neill: Looking at his options

Michael O'Neill: Looking at his options

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is hoping to have a better idea about the depth of his squad by the time he leaves Turkey.

Friday night's friendly in Adana is O'Neill's first since agreeing a new two-year contract with the Irish Football Association and circumstances mean he will be forced to throw some of his less experienced players into the match.

That is not usually how O'Neill prefers to do business. With a limited player pool at his disposal and perhaps only two more friendly dates after this one before Euro 2016 qualifying gets under way next September, he is keen to put his first-choice players together as often as possible.

But with withdrawals reaching double figures for the match, he will turn to relatively untested players against Fatih Terim's side.

That should teach him something about the quality of his reserves.

"The lads who are on the fringe are watched regularly for their clubs, and that's what you go on, but the thing is until you bring someone into a squad you don't know how they will adapt to that and integrate," he said.

"We have the likes of Jonny Steele here, James McPake is back in, Ryan McGivern hasn't been with us for a few games so it's an opportunity to see them first hand and let them know they are still in the picture and never far away from a call-up.

"It's up to them to show enough while they're here to make sure they are selected on a permanent basis.

"We have 11 players unavailable to us for one reason or another.

"But going forward into the next campaign we cannot have that level of unavailability to have a fighting chance in whatever group we're in."

One man with more of a point to prove than most is midfielder Jonny Steele.

The uncapped 27-year-old is a late bloomer at international level, having only just made his breakthrough with Major League Soccer franchise New York Red Bulls.

Prior to that he had explored every possible avenue, including indoor football in the United States and a brief semi-professional stint with Irish League side Ballymena United.

The absences of Chris Brunt and Shane Ferguson have opened up a vacancy for him to press his claims for further recognition and O'Neill is glad to have him aboard.

"He's another option in the left hand side of the pitch," said the manager.

"It gives us another option and that's what we need.

"You can never have enough options and ours are limited in certain areas.

"Jonny is a late developer and the path he's taken to where he is now is not the traditional path.

"It's nice for him to get his opportunity to be part of an international squad on the back of what has been a very good season.

"He's playing in a league which is highly regarded now and for one of the biggest clubs in that league.

"This last year there has been a real maturity in his game and in himself and it's good to get a chance to work with him first hand."


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