Above: Ethan Galbraith, Northern Ireland U21 captain
John Schofield has welcomed a couple of familiar faces back to his squad for the upcoming U21 Euro qualifiers away to Russia and Spain.
Northern Ireland are set to face the Russians on Friday 8 October in Khimki (5pm start, UK time) before taking on the Spanish in Seville on Tuesday 12 October (7.45pm kick-off, UK time).
Returning to the U21 fold are Morecambe midfielder Alfie McCalmont and Cliftonville striker Paul O’Neill.
McCalmont, who is on loan at the EFL League One outfit from Premier League club Leeds United, is back with the U21s after being called up to the Northern Ireland senior squad for last month’s triple header against Lithuania, Estonia and Switzerland.
And O’Neill, who was often the key striker in the last U21s campaign, makes his comeback after missing out on September’s opening U21 Euro qualifiers through injury.
The two upcoming away fixtures will arguably be the most difficult matches in U21 Euro 2023 Qualifying Group C for Schofield’s side.
Spain, the top seeds in the group, opened their qualification campaign with a 4-1 home win against second seeds Russia and a 2-0 away win against Lithuania. And the Russians defeated Malta 6-0 in Khimki, a city which is located just outside Moscow.
In contrast Northern Ireland had a disappointing 4-1 loss away to Malta in their first match before bouncing back to defeat Slovakia 1-0 at home.
The Northern Ireland U21 squad for the qualifiers against Russia and Spain is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Liam Hughes (Liverpool), Ollie Webber (Crystal Palace).
Defenders: Aaron Donnelly (Nottingham Forest), Trai Hume (Linfield), Sam McClelland (Chelsea), Kyle McClelland (Rangers), Kofi Balmer (Larne), Finn Cousin-Dawson (Bradford City), Jack Scott (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Midfielders: Ethan Galbraith (Doncaster Rovers – on loan from Manchester United), Alfie McCalmont (Morecambe – on loan from Leeds United), Caolan Boyd-Munce (Birmingham City), Cameron Palmer (Linfield), Oisin Smyth (Dungannon Swifts), Barry Baggley (Fleetwood Town), Chris Conn-Clarke (Fleetwood Town), Carl Johnston (Fleetwood Town), Paddy Lane (Fleetwood Town).
Forwards: Paul O’Neill (Cliftonville), Harry Anderson (Portadown), Ryan Waide (Ballymena United), John McGovern (Newry City).