Shane Ferguson in Northern Ireland squad to face Norway

Shane Ferguson
Shane Ferguson is back in the Northern Ireland panel for the Belfast friendly

Newcastle midfielder Shane Ferguson has returned to the Northern Ireland squad for next week's friendly with Norway.

It was feared he would switch to the Republic of Ireland after failing to answer a Northern Ireland call-up.

However, the 20-year-old committed his future to Northern Ireland in November and is included in Michael O'Neill's first squad as manager.

As expected Aaron Hughes, 32, is in the 24-man squad for the Belfast game after coming out of international retirement.

Fulham defender Hughes, who has 79 international caps, reversed his decision to retire after holding discussions with O'Neill.

After his appointment in late December, O'Neill made it clear that he wanted Hughes to return to international duty.

The Cookstown native was Northern Ireland captain from 2003 until his international retirement last September and his decision to return to the international scene is a major boost for the squad.

There were concerns that Ferguson would follow the likes of Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy, Paul George and James McClean and take advantage of a Fifa ruling by pledging himself to the Republic.

However, it seems a personality clash with then boss Nigel Worthington was a more likely reason for his absence.

Also returning to the set-up are Burnley defender Michael Duff, who last featured in 2008, and Kilmarnock midfielder Dean Shiels.

Hughes' Fulham team-mate Chris Baird, a veteran of 56 caps, is not in the squad because of personal reasons.

Wolves teenager Johnny Gorman, a regular squad member under Worthington, misses out along with Andrew Little of Rangers.

Elsewhere, O'Neill has opted against handing senior call-ups to Rory Donnelly, who moved from Cliftonville to Swansea earlier this season, and Daniel Lafferty, who made the move from Derry City to Burnley in January.

Ipswich midfielder Josh Carson has been promoted from the Under-21s and will be looking for a third cap.

Northern Ireland face a tough World Cup qualifying group which includes Portugal, Russia and Israel with only the winners guaranteed passage through to the finals in Brazil.

Northern Ireland squad: L Camp (Nottingham Forest), A Mannus (St Johnstone), M McGovern (Falkirk); J Evans (Manchester United), G McAuley (West Brom), M Duff (Burnley), S Ferguson (Newcastle), R McGivern (Bristol City, loan), A Hughes (Fulham), L Hodson (Watford), C Cathcart (Blackpool); J Carson (Ipswich), S Davis (Rangers), D Shiels (Kilmarnock), S Clingan (Coventry), G McCann (Peterborough), C Evans (Hull), N McGinn (Brentford, loan), P McCourt (Celtic); D Healy (Rangers), W Feeney (Plymouth), J McQuoid (Burnley, loan), J Ward (Derby), M Paterson (Burnley).

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