Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans is glad Gareth McAuley is back in the mix for Thursday’s international friendly against the Republic of Ireland insisting the veteran defender will be a big hit at Glasgow Rangers.
McAuley joined Steven Gerrard’s outfit after being at West Bromich Albion for seven seasons and Evans believes he will be a huge success with the Scottish side.
“I played alongside G for three years at West Brom and before that with Northern Ireland so we have played a lot of football together.
“He has always amazed me how good a player that he is and how good an athlete that he is.
“People always bring up his age and you cannot deny the fact that he is the age that he is.
“The way that he can get around the pitch and compete - he is still athletic. He is a great player and a great asset for us.
“He is obviously fantastic in the air and he is quicker than people think. And he is a very good reader of the game.
“During our time at West Brom we developed a very good partnership and understanding each other’s game.
“That takes time and we were obviously playing together a lot so we understand each others’s game quite a bit.
“I also felt for Gareth a bit. Because the last time that he came in to the NI squad he was feeling his calf a bit.
“He has just signed for a new club so it’s good to have him back and he’s a big character in amongst our squad which is good competition for everyone.”
Evans admitted he is looking forward to going up against Republic assistant manager Roy Keane who played a bit part in his development when he was starting out in football.
“Massive, he was the player I looked up to most when I was growing up as a United fan. He was the United captain and then I went on to play for him at Sunderland in two loan spells.
“He was a big inspiration for me and I still think of him a lot when I am on the pitch. I think , if Roy Keane was in this situation and things were tough then he’d roll his sleeves up and continue fighting’.
“Sometimes maybe I think ‘is he still watching me?’ - he’s still got that hold on me!”
“It was my first time playing competitive league football in England.
“When you are a young player and making your way up you always wonder as whether you can make that next step up.
“It was the next progression for me at that time. And I was grateful that he had given me that opportunity to go to Sunderland as I had been on loan at Antwerp, but then word went around that Sunderland were interested and he was the manager. It was a no-brainer and I could not wait to get up there.”