Fleetwood Town’s Euro 2016 star Conor McLaughlin failed to make it off the bench as Northern Ireland kick-started their campaign with yesterday’s 2-0 win over Ukraine.
Right-back McLaughlin revealed last week that he hoped to use the tournament as a “shop window” but the 24-year-old was among five players dropped in the wake of Sunday’s 1-0 defeat by Poland in their group C opener.
Michael O’Neill’s much-changed side went on to record their first-ever win at a European Championship in Lyon, and Fleetwood manager Steven Pressley says the experience in France will make O’Laughlin a better player, whatever happens in the tournament from here.
The Town boss said: “He played against a very strong Poland side and he acquitted himself very well. I think Conor can be really pleased with his performance.
“I think for many of the Northern Ireland players, the Ukraine game was the biggest they have ever played in. And hopefully we will see the benefits of the experiences Conor is having.”
Pressley admitted he could have a battle on his hands to keep hold of the former Preston defender this summer. And he revealed that if the right offer came in from a club in a higher division, Town would have to consider it.
And after McLaughlin played alongside a host of Premier League players, such as West Brom’s Jonny Evans and Watford’s former Blackpool defender Craig Cathcart, Pressley feels it’s understandable he may want to test himself at a higher level again.
“We understand fully the situation with Conor,” Pressley said. “He is a player who we really admire and we also understand that he has to consider his own career.
“We don’t want to lose him. But if the right offer from the right club came in, then just like any other club we would have to consider it.
“Playing in this championship propels him to another level but everything would have to be right to allow him to go.
“We are well aware that in his own mind he would want to move up to a higher level, especially after playing for his country in a major tournament.”
Former Fleetwood loanee Josh Morris has been reunited with ex-Town boss Graham Alexander at Scunthorpe United.
The winger made 54 appearances for Town and scored 10 times in three separate loan spells from Blackburn between February 2014 and May last year.
The 24-year-old joined Bradford City from Rovers last summer and has now penned a three-year-deal with the Iron.