Northern Ireland: Manager Michael O'Neill recalls striker Will Grigg

Will Grigg
Will Grigg scored twice for Wigan Athletic in a 3-0 win over Stoke City on Wednesday

Will Grigg has been recalled to the Northern Ireland squad for the opening Uefa Nations League match against Bosnia-Herzegovina and friendly against Israel.

The Wigan Athletic striker returns to Michael O'Neill's panel for the first time since November 2016.

O'Neill's side will play the Bosnians on 8 September and Israel three days later.

Both matches are at the National Stadium at Windsor Park.

Grigg, who came off the bench against Azerbaijan at Windsor Park when last selected by Northern Ireland, has scored three goals for Wigan this season.

Oxford United winger Gavin Whyte is left out of the squad from the summer tour to Central America despite making an impressive start to the season with new club Oxford United.

Whyte and Queen's Park Rangers forward Paul Smyth are included in the Under 21 squad that has an important Euro qualifier match away to Spain.

Experienced central defender Gareth McAuley is named by O'Neill despite not having signed for a new club since being released by West Brom in June.

Gareth McAuley
Former West Brom defender Gareth McAuley has been without a club since June

The 38-year-old is being linked with Hearts and Aberdeen, while Rangers are also believed to be interested in the former Leicester centre-half.

'We love having him in the squad'

O'Neill has monitored Grigg closely and is looking forward to having him back in the squad.

"Will was unavailable to us because of an injury for a long time, then he had some personal issues and didn't want to be selected," said O'Neill.

"I respected that and we kept a close eye on him, but I didn't bring him away in the summer because he had a long season and didn't need additional football.

"He's a player that hasn't quite made the breakthrough [at international level] but we know he is capable of doing that.

"Will has made a good start to the season with Wigan, he's a good boy and we love having him in the squad."

Kyle Lafferty, fresh from confirming his return to Rangers, is back in the squad after missing the summer tour to Central America.

Skipper Steve Davis also returns, as do fellow midfielders Oliver Norwood and George Saville.

Young players need to do more

Explaining his reasons for leaving out Smyth and Whyte, who moved from Crusaders to Oxford in July, O'Neill said:

"They are both good players and are part of the Under 21s who have an important match against Spain.

Gavin Whyte was the Irish Premiership's Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year last season
Gavin Whyte was the Irish Premiership's Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year last season

"They can still finish second in their group which brings the possibility of a place in the finals.

"We are not at a point yet where as soon as you get into full-time football you are automatically an international.

"Players have to do a little bit more before they can push to come into the squad."

O'Neill's men have been drawn alongside Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria in League B Group 3 of the inaugural Uefa Nations League.

The friendly against Israel will give O'Neill an opportunity to assess the depth of his squad ahead of back-to-back away games in Vienna and Sarajevo in October.

Northern Ireland's last international fixture was June's 3-0 defeat by Costa Rica, the second of a two-match tour of Central America which also included a 0-0 draw with Panama.

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: McGovern (Norwich City), Carson (Motherwell), Peacock-Farrell (Leeds United).

Defenders: Cathcart (Watford), J. Evans (Leicester City), Hughes (Hearts), McAuley (unattached), C. McLaughlin (Millwall), McNair (Middlesbrough), Smith (Hearts), Lewis (Norwich City).

Midfielders: Davis (Southampton), McGinn (Aberdeen), Dallas (Leeds), C. Evans (Blackburn), Ferguson (Millwall), Saville (Millwall), Jones (Kilmarnock), Norwood (Sheffield United).

Forwards: Lafferty (Rangers), Boyce (Burton Albion), Magennis (Bolton Wanderers), Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Washington (Queen's Park Rangers), Ward (Nottingham Forest).

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