Big boost for Northern Ireland as Gareth McAuley returns to action

Gareth McAuley
Gareth McAuley

There was good news for Northern Ireland last night as experienced defender Gareth McAuley made a long-awaited return to action.

The 37-year-old West Brom centre-back has been sidelined since he aggravated a thigh injury on international duty in June's 1-0 win in Azerbaijan. Up until his withdrawal in Baku, McAuley had played every minute of NI's World Cup qualification campaign.

The Larne man hasn't kicked a ball since and missed Northern Ireland's recent World Cup qualifying wins over San Marino and Czech Republic.

But last night he completed his first 45 minutes of the season after he lined out for the Baggies' Under-23s in an emphatic 5-1 win over their Brighton counterparts.

If his recovery goes to plan, McAuley will be hoping to be part of Michael O'Neill's panel for next month's Group C clashed at home to Germany and away to Norway next month.

West Brom host West Ham at The Hawthorns but that game may just be too early for McAuley to make his season debut in the top flight.