Gareth McAuley commits future to Northern Ireland ahead of 2018 World Cup qualifiers

Gareth McAuley was on target for West Brom on Saturday against Everton
Gareth McAuley was on target for West Brom on Saturday against Everton

Gareth McAuley has pledged his future to Northern Ireland – just in time for the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

McAuley will be included in Michael O’Neill’s squad for the opening Group C clash against the Czech Republic on September 4.

The 36-year-old’s international future had been cast in doubt following Northern Ireland’s exit from this summer’s Euro 2016 finals in France.

Northern Ireland bowed out at the last 16 stage with a 1-0 defeat to Wales, with McAuley the unfortunate scorer of the own goal that saw Chris Coleman’s side progress.

It did little to detract from what was a stellar tournament for the West Brom defender, and Northern Ireland boss O’Neill is delighted his 63-capped stalwart is back for more.

“He has started the season in fine form for West Brom and I am delighted he made the decision he did,” said O’Neill, who will name his squad for the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

“He had a great championship for us. I have never left him out of the team in my four and a half years in charge and I do not envisage doing it in the next two either.”

Northern Ireland’s other opponents in qualifying Group C are Germany, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

Their first home match is against San Marino on October 8.