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West Brom's Gareth McAuley panicked when he lost feeling in his foot

Sport | Published:

Gareth McAuley has revealed how worried he was when he lost feeling in his foot just two days after Seamus Coleman's sickening leg break.

Gareth McAuley isn't quite as talented as George Best was, but his service for Northern Ireland has been phenomenal.

Albion's evergreen defender was panicked when Norway's Joshua King struck a nerve down his leg during the first half of Northern Ireland's 2-0 win in Belfast on Sunday.

The 37-year-old had already sustained a blow to the back during the game and knows that a serious injury like the one Coleman sustained playing for the Republic of Ireland on Friday could end his career.

"He just caught me on the side of leg," said McAuley. "I went to put my foot down and it felt as though my foot wasn't there. So I panicked; there was absolutely no strength at all in it.

"I really panicked – I honestly thought there was nothing there. I was so worried. I didn't know what was going on. I tried to play a pass to Davo (Steven Davis) and I felt nothing at all in my foot.

"You see things – players getting injured and things like that. You never know when your last game of football is, so if you start taking it for granted, it's a game that can come back and bite you. It can finish you off."

Thankfully the fear subsided once the feeling returned.

With Albion team-mate Jonny Evans advising him to seek more attention from the Northern Irish medical department and boss Michael O'Neill contemplating a possible substitution, the centre-back soldiered on and was able to ease concerns over any long-term problem.

He completed the full 90 minutes to help his country keep a fourth clean sheet in their five World Cup qualifiers and is expected to be available this weekend for Albion's trip to Manchester United.

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"At that time I probably felt I couldn't continue but I was determined to play on and see if the strength would come back and thankfully it did," McAuley added.

"The more I kept moving the more strength returned which was a huge relief. Once I could feel my foot again then I stopped panicking."

Northern Ireland remain second in Group C of their World Cup qualification campaign on 10 points and will now look to take care of business in Baku and end Azerbaijan's aspirations of taking a play-off spot.

McAuley believes three points in that June fixture would set up a September showdown with the Czech Republic at Windsor Park that could determine who finishes runners-up to Germany.

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"I think it's where we hoped to be after being away to Germany and the Czech Republic," he said.

"We knew we needed to win our home games and we have done that.

"It's looking now if we can win in Azerbaijan in the summer, it'll probably come down to the Czech Republic game in September. Hopefully that will decide that we finish in the second place and get in the play-offs."

McAuley is expected to sign a new 12-month extension on his contract once he returns from international duty.

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