'Retirement never crossed my mind' - Evans

Northern Ireland midfielder Corry Evans said he was "always confident" he would make a playing return after serious injury.

The 33-year-old suffered a torn ACL playing for Sunderland in January 2023 and, after a series of setbacks, spent 15 months on the sidelines.

The former Blackburn Rovers and Hull City man, who is on the hunt for a new club after leaving the Stadium of Light at the end of the season, returned to action in April and is part of the Northern Ireland squad that will face Spain and Andorra in friendlies next month.

Despite seeing international team-mates Stuart Dallas and Steven Davis both forced to retire while he worked his way back to fitness, Evans never believed he would suffer a similar fate.

"Retirement never crossed my mind, not once," he said.

"My injury wasn't as bad as Stuart's – he had a complicated injury, which was dreadful for him.

“Davo had a similar injury as me but he had complications during his recovery.

“Mine was a straight ACL tear. I was always confident I would get back to my level again, it was just a matter of being patient."

'When you hear ACL, you think the worst'

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was present for the game against Middlesbrough when Evans suffered his injury and the 70-time capped international remembers telling him he expected to be out only a few weeks.

"Initially I thought I'd done a ligament on the outside of my leg, that's where the pain was," he said.

"I remember going up to see [O'Neill] afterwards up in the boardroom and we were chatting away.

"We were meant to be going for a bite to eat and I just told him I'd probably need a scan. He told me to go ahead and crack on, that he'd shoot off.

"There was no thought of ACL, that wasn't mentioned. The physios probably thought it, but they didn't tell me it.

"It wasn't until the next day that I went for the scan. I was shocked when I was told it was a rupture of the ACL. When you hear ACL, you think the worst, don't you?"

'I was so proud of Jonny'

Evans described himself as "very relaxed" about his search for a new club, adding he will "see what the summer brings".

His older brother, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans, could be in the same boat with his Old Trafford future still uncertain.

The younger Evans, a Manchester United youth product himself, was at Wembley on Saturday to see his brother lift the FA Cup after coming off the bench in the 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

"I took my son along and I don't think he will ever forget it," said Corry.

"I was so proud of Jonny. He did well in the cup final, but it wasn't just Saturday, he's done unbelievably well this season.

"I think he has shown what a quality player he still is and I think he deserved to play a part on Saturday. It was a proud moment for the whole family."

Having left United for West Brom in 2015, the 36-year-old returned to his first professional club in September on a deal for the remainder of the season.

Corry added: "Any time Jonny was called upon he did unbelievable. I think if you asked him at the start of the season, I don't think he would have expected to be playing in another FA Cup final, and winning it, with Manchester United.

"But football is a strange game and he is still showing he has the quality and the fitness and everything else that goes with it, to be part of a team like that.

"He has done incredibly well, and probably played a lot more games than he expected. Fair play to him, it's another medal.

"It is some career and the family are immensely proud of him."