NI U21 boss confident Ferguson will stay with N Ireland

Shane Ferguson
Shane Ferguson has impressed during his time with Newcastle United

Northern Ireland U21 boss Steve Beaglehole believes Shane Ferguson was never tempted to switch allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.

The Newcastle defender, who is in the squad to face Serbia on Tuesday, failed to respond to senior call-ups and asked not to be considered for an U21 game.

"I've no reason to believe he wasn't happy with NI - he never 'left' us as far as I'm concerned," said Beaglehole.

"He never said to me he didn't want to play for Northern Ireland."

Ferguson has already earned a senior cap, in a friendly against Italy two years ago, but is not yet tied to the country as it was not a competitive international.

There were strong rumours he intended to 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 later transpired a personality clash with Worthington was a more likely reason for his absence.

Beaglehole, meanwhile, insists he has never had a problem with the left-back.

"He and I had a conversation in the summer and he said he didn't want to be picked for an under-21 match against the Faroe Islands.

"He had a lot going on - he'd had a good season at Newcastle and there was a lot of hype about him going to the Republic. People read a lot into that and made comments and assumptions that weren't true.

"We understood his reasons and respected his reasons, but he hasn't come back to us because he'd never gone."

Beaglehole was brought in by Worthington, who resigned last month, but could be taking charge of the side for the final time.

His contract is up at the end of the year and with no replacement for Worthington currently in place, he remains uncertain over his future.