Jordan Thompson takes his place in Michael O’Neill ‘s Northern Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina – but uncertainty hangs over the fixture.
O’Neill has today named a 26-man party for the key game on March 26, with the winner taking on either Slovakia or Republic of Ireland five days later.
Thompson has been in good form since joining O’Neill at Stoke City from Blackpool in January for an undisclosed fee.
The 25-year-old made his first start on the left wing following an injury to James McClean but has since emerged as an impressive figure in a central holding role. He was named man of the match in his first home start, a 2-0 win over Cardiff.
There is doubt, however, whether the play-off in Zenica will or not be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, as has already been decided for Slovakia against the Republic.
The next two rounds of fixtures in Bosnian domestic football will be played behind-closed-doors and local media are reporting that gatherings of more than 250 in Sarajevo have been suspended by local government.
O’Neill told Sky Sports this afternoon: “Players are just going to have to adapt.
“Northern Ireland did play behind closed doors under the previous manager (against Serbia under Nigel Worthington) and that will have been a game some of our players were involved in. They’ll have some level of experience for that.
“For the home nation it’s a bigger blow to be honest. It’s a home advantage to play in front of a volatile, hostile crowd. That was a big factor in the Nations League game.
“Both sets of players will have to deal with a surreal atmosphere if it comes to that, given what’s at stake in the game as well.”
Northern Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Michael McGovern, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Trevor Carson
Defenders: Jonny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Conor McLaughlin, Jamal Lewis, Michael Smith, Tom Flanagan, Ciaron Brown
Midfielders: Steven Davis, Niall McGinn, Stuart Dallas, Shane Ferguson, Paddy McNair, George Saville, Jordan Jones, Gavin Whyte, Jordan Thompson, Liam Donnelly, Matthew Kennedy, Mark Sykes
Forwards: Kyle Lafferty, Josh Magennis, Liam Boyce, Conor Washington