Sunday 28 May 2017

Michael O'Neill left baffled by Troy Deeney's claim over talks with Northern Ireland

Michael O'Neill says he hasn't spoken to Troy Deeney in four years
Michael O'Neill says he hasn't spoken to Troy Deeney in four years

Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill insists he has no plans to name Troy Deeney in future squads despite the Watford striker claiming talks are taking place about a potential call up for Northern Ireland.

Deeney, who would prefer to play for England, was discussing his international options on Sky's Soccer AM show on Saturday and stated: "We are just confirming the Northern Ireland thing at the moment" in reference to his potential eligibility for the Euro 2016 finalists.

As far as O'Neill is concerned, however, he ruled out Deeney as a Northern Ireland player four years ago because his heritage was one generation out.

The Northern Ireland boss said: "I spoke with Troy about four years ago, not long after I took the job. I was alerted to Troy's potential eligibility, and I spoke to the player and had him watched. We were informed that the eligibility wasn't there, so we didn't pursue it any further.

"So the idea that we are suddenly speaking again is strange. We haven't spoken since four years ago.

"Saturday's news prompted a few texts and tweets, but it is news to me as it has been to everyone else.

"When we were informed that the route that we believed made the player eligible no longer existed, you don't explore it any further. That came down to the fact that the bloodline was a generation too far back. That's what we were told at the time.

"I am not sure what the motives are behind Saturday's comments, but it is not something I have given a lot of thought to.

"At the end of the day, if a player is eligible, and we feel he will strengthen the squad, then of course we will look into it, but it is not something we have dwelt on. I am not sure why the recent statements have come out, but I might look at them again when Monday's game is over."

Asked if he will contact Deeney again, O'Neill said: "I don't think there is any point unless the situation has changed. There are conversations we could have, but it is not high on my agenda. My focus is on the players I have here."

Belfast Telegraph

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