Paddy McNair happy to switch to right-back if needed for Northern Ireland

Paddy McNair is happy to switch to right-back if it will get him game time for club and country.

The 23-year-old has had a slow start to the season at club level as he looks to force his way into Middlesbrough’s crowded midfield.

But he turned out at right-back for Northern Ireland in a friendly victory against Israel last month and has also played there for Tony Pulis’ side, too.

McNair fears not having a regular position will count against him, but boss Michael O’Neill has said he will always find a place for him in the national team when fit.

“It’s great to hear Michael say that, but I do think it works against me sometimes playing in a variety of positions because it means I don’t have one position nailed down,” he said.

“But if he wants me to play right-back, centre-back or midfield, I’m happy to do so.”

McNair impressed in the 3-0 win over Israel as he got forward regularly to cause the visiting defence a headache on the right-hand side – to the degree he was dubbed the ‘Ballyclare Cafu’ in some quarters.

Though he would rather be in the middle of the park, McNair said he was happy as long as there was the opportunity to be involved in attacks.

“I enjoy playing right-back,” he added. “If you asked me, my preferred position would be midfield, but with this new playing style I’m able to get forward from right-back and get involved with the attacking play, and that’s what I love to do.”

McNair proved a useful outlet in the more expansive style of play Northern Ireland looked to employ in the last international break.

The system produced two impressive displays on home turf, but not always the desired results as O’Neill’s side conspired to lose their Nations League opener to Bosnia and Herzegovina despite dominating the match.

That has left them needing points from this week’s trips to Austria and Bosnia, but Oliver Norwood said they would look to impose themselves from the start once again – even away from home.

“It’s the way football is going now, the modern game has moved on so much that it’s the way that most teams are going,” the midfielder said.

“For me personally it’s similar to how we play at Sheffield United, on the front foot, starting games fast, trying to take the initiative, trying to force the other team on the back foot.

“We’re not saying we’re going to go and do that against Germany and teams like that, the top teams, but in the Nations League… playing against teams of similar level you want to test yourselves and we want to replicate those performances.”

McNair stopped short of calling Friday’s match in Vienna a must-win game, but admitted Northern Ireland needed to win either there or in Sarajevo on Monday to get back on course.

“I don’t think it would be the end of the world if we didn’t get three points,” he said.

“If we want to finish top of the group though then I think we need at least four points out of these two games.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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