Windsor Park ticks all the boxes for McAuley

Defender Gareth McAuley feels the new look National Stadium is suiting Northern Ireland nicely.

Tuesday, 28th March 2017, 10:48 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:04 pm
Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley celebrates after defeating Norway 2-0 during Sunday's 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier

At Windsor Park, Michael O’Neill’s side have won their three home games, scored 10 goals and haven’t conceded during this World Cup qualifying campaign, at Windsor Park.

“It’s nice that the transition into the new stadium that we can turn up and feel confident that we can put in a performance,” he admitted.

“Teams must look at that and thinking it’s a tough place to go too and hopefully that can continue.”

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley in action against Norway. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

McAuley, who is having a tremendous season with West Brom, was delighted that Watford’s Craig Cathcart was back playing alongside him and Jonny Evans and he admits the Green and White Army are in a good position at the halfway stage of the qualifying campaign.

“Cats’ is a really important player for us and he showed that,” he added.

“He has struggled with injuries this season, which will have been very, very frustrating for him, but hopefully that’s him back now and he can get games now between now and what is another very important game for us in the summer.

“We are in a good position, we have gone to the Czech Republic and its looking a little bit of if we can win the game in the summer, against Azerbaijan, which is a massive game, then it’s probably going to come down to home game against the Czech Republic.
“We have seen everyone and we have got that target in mind.

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley in action against Norway. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

“Getting above Germany is going to be nye on impossible probably but we’ll give it a go and see what comes of it.”

The big centre-back, who has famously scored more Premier League goals than Wayne Rooney, Paul Pogba, Mesut Özil and Ross Barkley this season, is enjoying life at The Hawthorns and can’t wait to face Manchester United this weekend.

“I’m enjoying my football as much as I ever have, I’m playing away, touch wood I have been lucky that I haven’t had many injuries and I have been lucky that the manager (Tony Pulis) picks me and plays me,” he confirmed.

“I’m grateful that the club keep me there and keep me playing.

“We have eight to go in the league now and we are in a good position, but we want to try and kick-on and get over 50 points in the league and we are going to have to go to places like Old Trafford and face the likes of Chelsea and that at home to do that.

“They are big games, but we’ll play with a bit of freedom knowing that we are well over that so called 40 point mark and we are looking up ratherly than behind us.”

The 37-year-old, who is believed to be close to signing a new deal at the Albion, feels that Jose Mourinho’s side are tough to beat and they are starting to look like his former title winning Chelsea sides.

“He’s a winner, everywhere he has went and he instals that into the team,” admitted McAuley.

“They are a tough team to beat and they are starting to look a little bit like the Chelsea team that he had before.”