VERY few players, if any, make their International debut at 25 and go on to achieve 79 caps for their country, but that is exactly what Gareth McAuley has achieved.
The 6’5 central defender’s first senior International outing came at Windsor Park in a friendly contest against Germany in June 2005, a game arranged to celebrate 125 years of the Irish Football Association.
McAuley, a late developer who failed to gain international recognition at youth level, established himself in the Northern Ireland squad under Lawrie Sanchez and scored his first goal in a EURO 2010 qualifying win in San Marino.
Linfield were his first club, but after failing to play a single first team game for the Blues he moved across the city and joined Crusaders in 2000.
His next stop was Coleraine who signed him in the summer of 2002 and where he enjoyed Irish Cup success in 2003 following a 1-0 victory over Glentoran.
Following an unsuccessful trial at Stockport County, McAuley finally entered the professional game at the age of 24 after Lincoln City snapped him up for a ‘bargain’ £10,000 fee in August 2004.
After two impressive seasons at Sincil Bank, the Larne-born defender joined Championship side Leicester City on a ‘Bosman’, though two years later in 2008, following City’s relegation to League One, he was on his way to Ipswich Town who were then managed by Jim Magilton.
Seven years after becoming a professional in England his journey to the ‘top’ was complete when he joined Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion on a free transfer after rejecting a new contract at Portman Road.
He was named Northern Ireland International Personality of the Year in 2011 and was voted West Brom’s Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the year in 2013.
McAuley wrote his name in the history books when he scored Northern Ireland's first goal in the now famous 2-0 victory over the Ukraine in Lyon and he is also the highest ever scoring defender for his country with nine goals to his name.
At the end of the 2017/18 season West Brom released McAuley and he subsequently signed a one-year deal Glasgow Rangers.
|Position||Centre Back / Right Back|
|DOB||5th December 1979|
|Place of Birth||Larne|
|Height||6’5 / 1.95m|
|Weight||14.02 / 90kg|
|Debut||4th June 2005 v Germany (h) (lost 1-4)|
Senior International Stats
UEFA Nations League Stats