Town defender McLaughlin faces one final effort

Conor McLaughlin celebrates a goal against Azerbaijan last November
Conor McLaughlin celebrates a goal against Azerbaijan last November

Fleetwood Town full-back Conor McLaughlin has swapped the wet and windy Fylde coast for tropical training in Turkey as his season draws to a close with one final international before his club future is decided.

McLaughlin’s current deal at Highbury is up on June 30 but, before penning a new deal or opting for a different destination, his sole focus is on helping Northern Ireland, get one step closer to the World Cup.

The 25-year-old has been training in Antalya,Turkey, this week as Michael O’Neill’s men acclimatise ahead of today’s qualifying clash against Azerbajian in Baku (5pm).

After playing 55 games for club and country this season McLaughlin admitted training in Turkey has been tough but a great environment as O’Neill’s side bid to build on last summer’s Euro 2016 appearance and make their first appearance on the world stage since Mexico ‘86.

McLaughlin said: “Training has been good, hard work, but it is a nice place to work in and the lads are putting in a lot of hard work before the qualifier in Azerbaijan.”

Ending that World Cup absence is not going to be easy though with holders Germany streets ahead in Group C.

Northern Ireland are second and in pole position to secure one of the eight best runners-up spots for a two-legged play-off to join the group winners in Russia.

They won 4-0 in the reverse fixture at Windsor Park last November asMcLaughlin netted his first international goal, but he believes home advantage may come into play.

He said: “I don’t think it will be the same sort of game; they are at home and we have to prepare. We’ll be playing a bit differently but hopefully the result will be the same.”