McNair at least a month away
With a hint to the Sunderland midfielder’s league comeback, Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill reckons Paddy McNair won’t be available for the World Cup play-offs to be held in early-to-mid November.
The Green and White army booked their place in the winner-takes-all games to be played over two legs despite losing to Norway last night. Those first round fixtures are scheduled for November 9th - 11th with the second round to be played 12th to the 14th.
Speaking about his squad options, O’Neill said of the players he may have available in a few weeks time:
It would be nice to have one or two of the players we have missing back. We hopefully will have Jamie Ward for the play-off. It’s unlikely that we’ll have McNair or Cathcart back.
The draw for the play-offs will be held a week tomorrow. McNair will have missed more than 12 months of football by the time he returns to action. The 22-year-old Ballyclare-born midfielder injured his cruciate knee ligaments in November 2016 against Hull City and has endured an arduous return to fitness.
McNair appears set to make his tentative comeback to competitive football with an outing for the Under-23s at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night in the Premier League International Cup, where they take on German side Hertha Berlin.
Ndong cops it in Gabon
Having been dumped out of World Cup qualification, Gabon’s star names are copping it in the African media for their hammering by Morocco at the weekend.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken the brunt of it for his post on social media prior to the game that Gabonese players and staff had suffered a bout of diarrhoea from a dodgy batch of orange juice. The Borussia Dortmund striker has subsequently been panned for his pre-game ‘excuses’.
But Sunderland’s Didier Ndong has fared little better, with the public and press considering that he was one of a midfield who ‘completely missed the game’.
Bryan’s boots & bonce
Sunderland defender Bryan Oviedo featured in Costa Rica’s Russia 2018 qualification clincher in a jazzy pair of boots on Saturday night. The footwear featured a design inspired by anime TV series DragonBall Z.
Bryan’s wife, Angie, explained the reasoning behind the left-back’s supercharged boots:
Bryan had seen a Dragon Ball design and he fell in love, he said that he wanted some tacos like that because my son (Frederick) loves Dragon Ball, he always plays with his dad, so my son is Vegeta and Bryan is Goku. wanted that design to represent the relationship between him and Fede.
The boots have been designed by Pierre Navarro as part of his Nike ‘MANGA Collection’. Crystal Palace’s Bakary Sako donned a similar pair in the Premier League a couple of weeks ago.
The footwear clearly possess some sewn-in luck with the Eagles midfielder scoring the only goal of the game against Huddersfield in the Carabao Cup to send his side through to the next round.
Watch out for Oviedo this Saturday - not that you’ll miss him - as along with several of his Costa Rican teammates, the Black Cats left-back has agreed to die his hair red, white and blue to celebrate World Cup qualification for Wednesday’s match with Panama.
Oviedo may well be excused a spot in the Sunderland starting line-up after his exploits in Central America as he is unlikely to be back in the UK until hours before kick-off. Assuming it isn’t the wash in-wash out variety though, his bonce could be quite the sight on the bench for the visit of QPR.
Continuing his new role as a right-sided wing-back, Sunderland owned Fabio Borini bagged himself a goal at the weekend in an international break friendly between AC Milan and their youth side, A.C. Milan Primavera.
Borini continues to get good reviews in his new role - despite Paolo Di Canio’s well-publicised doubts about his ability - and the former Liverpool man will be itching to play in this weekend’s Milan derby at the San Siro on Sunday.