Preston North End boss hails Ali McCann for how he’s settled in at Deepdale

Ali McCann’s starring role for Northern Ireland on Friday comes as no surprise to Preston boss Frankie McAvoy.

By Craig Salmon
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 8:00 am

The midfielder was integral to the Irishmen’s 1-0 victory over Lithuania at Belfast Road in a World Cup qualifier.

Twenty-one-year-old McCann has been capped nine times by his country – and was likely to figure once again for the visit of European champions Italy last night.

Against Lithuania, McCann had a goal controversially chalked off for offside with Josh Magennis penalised for being deemed to have interfered with play.

Ali McCann in action for Northern Ireland against Lithuania (photo: Getty Images)

Ireland boss Ian Baraclough felt the decision to disallow the goal was harsh and it robbed McCann of his first competitive international strike.

The Scottish-born star – who qualifies to play for Northern Ireland through his father – has certainly made an impression since arriving at Deepdale in August from St Johnstone for £1m.

Despite his progress being hindered by injury at first, McCann has helped North End win two out of their last three league games – scoring PNE’s all-important second goal in the 2-1 win at Championship leaders Bournemouth.

McAvoy has been pleased with the way his big-money signing this summer has settled in at the club.

“I had no doubt that Ali would do well,” said McAvoy.

“Sometimes it takes a wee bit of time for a player to come in and settle into the group.

“I think the lads that we have here are a good group and are very welcoming. I think they have made Ali feel at home.

“He’s had a lot of tributes already and really it is up to him to show what he can do when he goes out and plays.

“We can set the team up as best we can but that’s the easy part, it’s all about his belief and confidence in himself and his ability to go out and deliver when he crosses the white line on to the pitch.

“To be honest, he does that every time he is picked to play for us.

“He’s a young man who is 21 and did remarkably well at St Johnstone, winning two cups in Scotland.

“It’s no mean feat to be part of that group which stopped the Old Firm. It shows how well Callum Davidson has done as manager and Ali as part of that squad.”

One other PNE player who will have hoped to have featured last night was Emil Riis.

The club’s leading goalscorer was called up late by his country Denmark for their World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Hampden Park.

The Danes have already qualified for the World Cup having topped their group.

Sepp van den Berg did not feature for Holland Under-21s as they crushed Gibraltar 7-0 yesterday afternoon.