Lonergan could play for Republic

Preston North End goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan could soon be eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland, despite having already picked up international honours with England.

A new FIFA ruling passed last week will allow a number of players to switch their football allegiance to another country, and 25-year-old Lonergan is reported to be on the radar of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni.

He already has North End's Sean St Ledger, Eddie Nolan and Wayne Henderson in his squad, with St Ledger earning his second full cap in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Bulgaria in a World Cup qualifier.

Lonergan represented England from schoolboy level through to the Under-21s and until last week would have been blocked from playing for another country – he qualifies for Ireland through family links.

Before then, players who had played international football at youth level had until their 21st birthday to make the choice of which country to represent.

But FIFA scrapped the age limit after a proposal by Algeria which was backed by a number of African countries.

Trapattoni said: "It's very important news. When I was coach with Italy there was a player who would not play for us because he hoped to play for Argentina and so I am familiar with what happens in these situations.

"I know we have many young players in England who might have played for the English Under-21s. There are maybe three or four who could certainly strengthen our squad and we can have a look at them again and see if they want to play with us."

Others in the same boat as Lonergan include Kevin Nolan at Newcastle, West Ham's Mark Noble and Tottenham's Jamie O'Hara.

Lonergan is understood to be keen on exploring the switch, with his chances of turning out for England at senior level pretty slim at the moment.

FIFA agreed with Algeria and their supporting nations who had argued a case for a change in the age limit.

They saw a lot of young players try their luck at youth level with former colonial countries such as France and Holland, only for them not to progress to senior level.

By then they were left in the international wilderness, prompting the FIFA rethink.

Full story in Tuesday's Evening Post