Michael O'Neill has named a 24-man squad for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan, with Burnley striker Martin Paterson a notable absentee.
O'Neill's men are on a high after securing a 1-1 draw in Portugal last month against all odds but must now follow up with a positive result at Windsor Park on November 14.
O'Neill has named six players capable of playing as forwards but Paterson is not among them. He played, and scored, for his club at the weekend, but pulled out of the Portugal squad citing "ongoing fitness issues" to raise question marks over his international future.
There has been no signal yet that Paterson plans to retire from Northern Ireland duty, but with a poor injury record in recent years and a new manager in the shape of Sean Dyche to impress at Turf Moor, he appears to be out of consideration at present.
West Brom centre-half Gareth McAuley is back following suspension, while Chris Brunt, Grant McCann and Shane Ferguson all return from injury.
O'Neill believes several of his players will have matured as international footballers after their heroic draw in Portugal. While the likes of Steven Davis and Aaron Hughes were involved in the famous wins over England and Spain during the Lawrie Sanchez years, the Portugal result marked the first great underdog result for many of the starting XI.
Goalscorer Niall McGinn, Ryan McGivern, Corry Evans, Oliver Norwood and Craig Cathcart all impressed at the Dragao Stadium but have previously been uncertain of their places. O'Neill is now confident they have taken a big step in their development.
"I think it feels like we have some more established players now, and you always hope for that," he told Press Association Sport.
"Players need time and opportunities to grow at international level and being involved in nights like Portugal help to do that. Look at the experiences gained by players like Niall, Corry, Ollie and Ryan - that was probably their first big experience of that kind of game and coming away from an arena like that with a result."
Northern Ireland squad for World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan, Windsor Park on November 14: R Carroll (Olympiacos), A Mannus (St Johnstone), M McGovern (Falkirk), A Hughes (Fulham), R McGivern (Man City, on loan at Hibernian), J Evans (Man Utd), C Cathcart (Blackpool), G McAuley ( West Brom), A Bruce (Hull), C Baird (Fulham), S Davis (capt, Southampton), O Norwood (Huddersfield), C Evans (Hull), N McGinn (Aberdeen), P McCourt (Celtic), C Brunt (West Brom), S Ferguson (Newcastle), G McCann (Peterborough), D Healy (Bury), D Shiels (Rangers), K Lafferty (Sion), W Grigg (Walsall), J Ward (Derby), A Little (Rangers).
- Sports & Recreation
- Martin Paterson
- Northern Ireland