SHANE Ferguson is hoping to rebuild bridges with Northern Ireland to revive his international career.
Nearly three years after his international debut, the Newcastle United left-sider was named in Michael O’Neill’s first squad as manager.
The 20-year-old will report for training in the build-up to next week’s friendly in Norway hoping to repair a relationship which had badly broken down under O’Neill’s predecessor Nigel Worthington.
Prolonged exposure to international football will help Ferguson’s chances of breaking into Newcastle’s first team.
He made a number of promising appearances late last season but has failed to kick on as he might have hoped.
Held back by injury, he has made just one start this term, in September’s League Cup win at Nottingham Forest. He has also come off the bench three times.
Ferguson injured his ankle at a pre-season game in Darlington, causing Ryan Taylor to be given the first opportunity to replace departed left-back Jose Enrique at the start of the season.
The Merseysider responded brilliantly, holding off Ferguson, and Enrique’s intended replacement Davide Santon until December. By then Ferguson had picked up a niggling thigh injury playing for Northern Ireland Under-21s.
Ferguson made a promising substitute appearance at White Hart Lane in Newcastle’s last game.
Although the Magpies were hammered 5-0 by Tottenham Hotspur, they looked considerably more solid once the Irishman was introduced at half-time to play on the left-hand side of midfield as Newcastle inevitably resorted to damage limitation.
When Ferguson failed to return his calls, Worthington assumed it was because the Derry-born player had decided to play instead for the Republic of Ireland.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, players born in Ireland can decide to represent either country.
It is an arrangement which led to Sunderland winger James McClean – also born in Derry – being called up by the Republic yesterday.
Numerous other Northern Ireland-born players have also invoked it to play for the more successful Republic.
Ferguson, though, is prepared to throw his weight behind the country of his birth now Worthington has been replaced by former Newcastle striker O’Neill after a disappointing qualifying campaign for this year’s European Championships.
Under Fifa rules, players are only tied to a country once they have represented them in a competitive game.
Ferguson’s only previous cap, earned against Italy, came in a friendly.
Wednesday’s game is also a friendly, so the option of switching allegiances will not die if he plays.