Michael O’Neill: NI boss ‘hopeful’ Oliver Norwood will return for Euro qualifiers

Oliver Norwood has made 57 appearances for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has said he would love to have Oliver Norwood back in his squad for the next Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The midfielder ruled himself out of the opening four games against Estonia and Belarus, which O’Neill’s side claimed maximum points from.

Northern Ireland play Germany in September and Netherlands in October, and O’Neill is hopeful the Sheffield United man will return.

“I’d love to have Ollie back,” he said.

“Hopefully he feels the same way. We will have a conversation about that.

“He had played with a groin problem and that was part of the reason he made himself unavailable, and he had surgery in the summer.

“The problem is that the lads who came in have done really well. Paddy McNair has been excellent, Corry Evans has been great, and we have George Saville and Steven Davis in there as well.

“We have great competition for places in the middle of the pitch, with young Mark Sykes coming into the squad and Jordan Thompson as well.”

O’Neill’s side beat Belarus 1-0 in their last match in June

Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League last season was a third consecutive promotion for Norwood, who was in the Brighton team that went up in 2017 before helping Fulham win the play-off final in 2018.

The 28-year-old never appeared for either side in the top flight, but, speaking on Radio Ulster’s Summer Club, O’Neill backed him to make the step up this season with the Blades.

“I’m pleased for Ollie, he is a great lad and deserves the chance to play in the Premier League,” O’Neill added.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him getting that opportunity. It is going to be a different level from what he has been used to in the Championship but hopefully he is capable of stepping up.”

Northern Ireland are top of Euro 2020 qualifying Group C, with Germany, who have played a game less, in second and Netherlands, who have only played twice, in third.

O’Neill’s men have a friendly at home to Luxembourg on 5 September before welcoming Germany to Belfast on 9 September and travelling to play the Netherlands on 10 October.

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