Jonny Evans transfer saga won't derail Northern Ireland World Cup hopes
MICHAEL O’Neill is confident Jonny Evans’ transfer saga will not derail Northern Ireland’s San Marino preparations, with the centre-back’s future still unresolved heading into the window’s final stages.
West Brom have already turned down bids from Manchester City and Leicester for their 29-year-old captain while long-standing admirers Arsenal are also thought to be keen again.
Evans’ suitors only have until 11pm on Thursday to clinch a deal and any move could be complicated by the fact Evans, who ironically trained at City’s training ground with his Northern Ireland team-mates on Tuesday and Wednesday, was due to leave for San Marino with his international colleagues on Thursday morning.
As things stand, O’Neill expects to have Evans on that flight, but he is prepared to make alternative arrangements should a late move materialise.
“Whatever happens Jonny will be ready to play on Friday night, I’ve no doubts about that,” he said on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a difficult situation for any player, for myself the manager and all international managers I’m sure.
“Our job is just to focus on ourselves and should a club agree terms or should a transfer come to fruition that we facilitate it in the best way possible but also the club do it in such a way that is least disruptive to ourselves.
“Equally we’re not in a position to turn around and say to a player, ‘he can’t leave, he can’t do that’. It’s his career that is at stake.
“If something does happen between now and tomorrow night (Thursday) we’re fairly confident it won’t disrupt us too much.
“Our intention is unless something changes dramatically between now and when we depart tomorrow morning, the party’s as it is, with the 26 players, and Jonny will be part of that.
“If something extreme happens and we have to try and facilitate that then we would look at that.
“The clubs aren’t doing it intentionally to make it more difficult for us. They have to do their own business without the consideration of internationals, it’s made their job probably harder because players are all over the world now and that can’t make it any easier for the clubs to do it.
“The technology and the resources these clubs have mean it’s possible to do it even if the player isn’t in the vicinity at that minute in time.”
Evans is yet to play this season due to a nagging hamstring complaint, and O’Neill will be keen to see him shake that off in time to feature on Friday given fellow Premier League defenders Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart are absent from his group.
“I think he’s been careful,” O’Neill added of Evans’ injury situation.
“He hasn’t played yet in the three games for West Brom but he trained yesterday (Tuesday) and today (Wednesday) and he’s not felt any reaction to that. We’re optimistic that he’ll be fine for Friday night.”