Evans predicts brighter future

Jonny Evans believes Northern Ireland are heading in the right direction under Michael O'Neill.

Last Updated: 08/09/13 at 18:05 Post Comment

Jonny Evans: Confident for the future

Jonny Evans: Confident for the future

Jonny Evans believes Northern Ireland are heading in the right direction under Michael O'Neill and is hopeful of an improved showing in Euro 2016 qualifying.

The Manchester United defender has become an increasingly influential figure at international level during O'Neill's first campaign, relishing the chance to establish himself at centre-half after filling in at left-back for much of his early career.

And his enthusiasm for the Northern Irish cause is stronger than ever.

The side may have won just one of their seven matches in World Cup qualifying, a shock success over Fabio Capello's Russia, but the mood around the team has been positive under O'Neill and two strong showings against Portugal - a 1-1 draw in Porto and Friday night's unfortunate 4-2 defeat - offered further optimism.

Hopes of a place at Rio next summer may have gone but Evans raised the prospect of a real challenge for the European Championships in France, when the number of participating teams increases from 16 to 24.

"The extra teams are qualifying in the next campaign and that gives us a big incentive," Evans said.

"We need to go back to this campaign, finish as strong as we can and put points on the board. That might have an effect on the seedings and the draw for the next qualifying campaign.

"We're in a good place as a squad. It feels like we have things worked out a bit and if we can continue in that fashion there is that wee bit of hope.

"There is a good spirit among the squad. You hear people saying 'we enjoy it' but we actually are enjoying it. It's a good atmosphere."

Evans, speaking with new authority as one of the squad's senior men, identifies two key reasons for the increasing feelgood factor that is developing around the side.

First is O'Neill's tendency to deploy players in their preferred positions - a simple call, perhaps, but one his predecessor Nigel Worthington often felt unable to make due to limited options.

Secondly, but on a related note, is the emergence of a new group of players.

Shane Ferguson, Niall McGinn, Jamie Ward and Martin Paterson were all capped under Worthington but were largely peripheral figures, whereas O'Neill has sought to use them as first-team regulars, with promising results.

"One thing I've noticed is that maybe in past people played out of position," said Evans.

"I played at left-back for a number of years and I was doing a job for the team but it was never a position I was comfortable in.

"If you look now at the likes of Niall, Fergie, Wardy it's better.

"Wardy has had to wait for his turn and is only now playing regularly and that's what we need. It's great to have Shane on the left and Niall on the right, they really give us pace.

"And we have competition at left-back, right-back, centre-back - where we are very strong - it's a big factor to have that competition."

Having competed well against more illustrious opponents in the their last two matches, Tuesday night represents a different type of challenge.

Although they are away from home, Northern Ireland will be expected to see Luxembourg off at the Stade Josy Barthel - the kind of task they have struggled with in recent years.

Indeed, the reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw thanks to a late Luxembourg equaliser.

"It won't be bigger in terms of publicity as Portugal - beating them at home would have people talking about great nights at Windsor Park - but these are the games we haven't done as well in, against teams at the same level as us or below," he said.

"The onus is on ourselves, you get a lot more time on the ball.

"There is that pressure if we don't produce or if we don't score early, but if we stick to what we did well against Portugal, no matter what the opponent, I think we'll be fine."


Sky Bet Free Bet Club: £10 free bet - £5 free every week


Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

Y

ou spend £200 million in one year and you say 3 years to win the title, I don't think the Man U board signed you to win the title in 3 years after shelling out that sort of cash. Spending that sort of money you should be challenging for the title in this season, not getting an early excuse in to try appeasing the fans and board.

chelseablue_no1
Van Gaal has lofty ambitions

E

verything looks pretty when, for a short while, the sun shines through the dark clouds. For a brief moment you can forget about your last tonking or the many more to come.

godzilla
Van Gaal welcomes 'new start'

I

guess Storey was able to cancel his planned trip to the shops this weekend. He won't need to buy any food for a while because he's really dining out on those Angel/angel puns. It's going to be a long season.

ted, manchester
Forget Falcao, United Loving Angel Instead

Footer 365

Transfer news: Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean loaned to Yeovil

Yeovil Town have signed Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean on an initial month-long loan deal.

Rio: Moyes' tactics 'embarrassing'

Rio Ferdinand says David Moyes created a "negative vibe" during his Manchester United reign and labelled the Scot's tactics as "embarrassing".

Premier League: Chelsea striker Diego Costa knows goals will dry up

Chelsea striker Diego Costa has paid tribute to his team-mates for his flying start, but concedes his goals will dry up.

Mail Box

Fixing The Mess At Old Trafford

Plenty of conclusions on United's win over QPR and their missing link(s), more Ozil frustration, how Liverpool are like lasagne, as well as a word on Diego Costa's temperament...

A Lousy Day At The Office For Liverpool

We have some excellent thoughts on Arsenal's draw and Liverpool's woeful loss, plus praise for Villa, Diego Costa, Philippe Senderos and the 'final' word on hitting the post...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property