FOOTBALL: Gareth McAuley returns to Northern Ireland squad for World Cup qualifiers

Gareth McAuley
Gareth McAuley

West Brom's Gareth McAuley is back in Northern Ireland's squad for the World Cup qualifiers with Germany and Norway next month.

And there are maiden call-ups for midfielders Jordan Jones and George Saville.

McAuley, 37, missed the World Cup qualifying victories over San Marino and the Czech Republic with a thigh problem which resurfaced in the first half of the game against Azerbaijan in June.

He returned for the Baggies in last week's Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City and will now come back to a Northern Irish defensive unit which has kept seven clean sheets in eight qualifiers - more than any other European nation.

There is still no place for Watford's Craig Cathcart, Sunderland's Paddy McNair and Nottingham Forest's Jamie Ward due to injury, while boss Michael O'Neill has left out Wigan striker Will Grigg once again.

O'Neill was in attendance when Grigg scored his first goal since January against Bristol Rovers earlier this month, but he has stuck with the quartet of Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Shay McCartan.

There are two new faces in Kilmarnock's Jones and Millwall's Saville, both of whom were born in England.

Jones previously represented Northern Ireland at youth level but withdrew himself from consideration as a teenager because he thought he could make it with the country of his birth.

He has since made a U-turn on that decision and was part of a Northern Ireland training squad earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Saville, who came through Chelsea's academy, qualifies to represent O'Neill's team through his grandmother.

Northern Ireland host world champions Germany on October 5 before concluding their group campaign against Norway in Oslo three days later.

O'Neill's men have guaranteed at least second place in Group C and look primed to claim one of the eight play-off berths on offer, with a two-legged tie in November standing between those countries and a place in Russia next summer.

Full squad: Roy Carroll (Linfield), Michael McGovern (Norwich), Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone); Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Chris Brunt (West Brom), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Lee Hodson (Rangers), Daniel Lafferty (Sheffield United), Adam Thompson (Bradford), Tom Flanagan (Burton); Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Gwangju), Oliver Norwood (Fulham), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Paul Paton (St. Johnstone), Matthew Lund (Burton), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), George Saville (Millwall); Kyle Lafferty (Hearts), Josh Magennis (Charlton), Conor Washington (QPR), Shay McCartan (Bradford).