Euro 2016 qualifiers: Gareth McAuley targeting ‘huge’ victory against Faroe Islands

Gareth McAuley pictured during Tuesday's training session at Clandeboye Park, Bangor, ahead of Friday night's UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against the Faroe Islands. Photo: Presseye

Gareth McAuley pictured during Tuesday's training session at Clandeboye Park, Bangor, ahead of Friday night's UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier against the Faroe Islands. Photo: Presseye

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Gareth McAuley hopes Northern Ireland can take a “huge step” towards qualification for next summer’s Euro finals when they face the Faroe Islands on Friday.

Michael O’Neill’s men sit second in Group F – just one point behind Romania as the race for France 2016 continues to gather pace.

Victory in Torshavn in two days’ time would be another significant step towards achieiving their ultimate goal.

And experienced defender McAuley is determined to avoid any mishaps against Lars Olsen’s men.

“It is difficult not to think about what it would be like to qualify for next summer’s Euros. I would love to be in the squad to qualify, for selfish and personal reasons like having my wife and children see my play at a major tournament it really keeps me focused,” the West Brom star said.

“For myself and those close to me it would be incredible, but also for the bigger picture – the fans and the entire country.

“It would be a dream come true. But there is a lot of football to be played yet.

“One thing’s for sure, Friday could be a huge step for us.”

Northern Ireland defeated the Faroes at Windsor Park last October – one of four wins out of six qualifiers to date.

Friday’s renewal will be followed by a home clash with Hungary next Monday, with the campaign finishing with a double-header against Greece and Finland next month.

For McAuley, though, the sole focus is on Friday’s test in Torshavn.

“This is the biggest game of the campaign because it is the next fixture,” the 35-year-old added.

“Our full focus is going to be on going to the Faroes and we will look at Hungary after Friday night.

“We know the Faroes will be organised and strong – they are different team to the one we drew with over there five years ago.

“Make no mistake about it, this is going to be a difficult game for us.

“But three points are vital. If we can do that it will be a massive boost going into the Hungary game and for the rest of the campaign.”

Meanwhile, McAuley has welcomed the arrival of international teammate Jonny Evans to West Brom.

Evans completed his move from Manchester United at the weekend.

“Jonny Evans was in a difficult situation when he was at Manchester United and not playing many games. But that has changed now and I am delighted he has joined my club,” McAuley added.

“He hasn’t been involved at the club yet but from watching him in training in the past few days with Northern Ireland, he’s looked like himself.

“He’s been sharp, on the front foot and he will have no problems whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, Billy McKay has been added to Northern Ireland’s squad after Ben Reeves was forced to withdraw through injury.

Michael O’Neill remains confident Chris Brunt will be available for Friday’s game, while Jamie Ward remains at his club Nottingham Forest receiving treatment on a hamstring injury.