Alistair McCann is tipped to get a call up to the Northern Ireland national team for the Nations League matches in September, in what will be Ian Baraclough’s first games in charge.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1999, the 20-year-old has become one of the first names on the St. Johnstone team-sheet after some really impressive performances. He is often played in the defensive midfield role, but has some impressive attacking skill, making him an excellent box-to-box midfielder and an all-round midfielder, something that is very useful to have in the International set-up.
Northern Ireland is fortunate to have so many quality midfielders with the likes of Davis, McNair, Saville and Evans creating an experienced line-up, with the likes of Thompson, Sykes, McCalmont, Galbraith and now McCann ready to make the step-up when required.
This will make it more difficult for McCann to cement his place in the International starting XI, however, with the first international window arriving at the time when many leagues around the world are on a break after having a late restart, his match sharpness may make him a better option than some.
One thing that Northern Ireland has always seem to do well is putting in a strong performance despite players maybe not playing first-team football for a matter of weeks or even months. I think Northern Ireland is at a point where they can mix up the squad a little and get the players that are playing week in, week out onto the pitch and add that extra dimension of sharpness that is often lost when they play.
McCann has been apart of the Northern Ireland Under 21 set up and given that Baraclough was the manager of that side before he replaced Michael O’Neill in the full international set-up, he is one of a few players that could make the step up.
When you look at the fringe midfield players in the national pool, there is quite a few and McCann will not be in the same position as the likes of Jamal Lewis getting into the starting XI on a consistent basis. He is a player for the future, and it just helps that he is already a very talented player despite only being 20-years-old.
I believe he is a long term replacement for Davis. I don’t think any player will be able to capture the love and respect the fans have for Davis, but ability-wise if he can fill that void by even half then things are looking good for Northern Ireland.
I expect to see him named in Baraclough’s first side, and with Davis having limited game time, Saville, McNair and Evans not having competitive football at the moment, he might even be in contention for a starting spot, given it’s the glorified friendly matches of the Nations League and the start of the future for Northern Ireland under Ian Baraclough.