ACCRINGTON Stanley hotshot Dion Charles has been called up for Northern Ireland, and manager John Coleman says it is no less than the striker deserves.

Charles has scored 16 League One goals to fire the Reds to the periphery of the play-offs, which they are still in reach of despite a dip in results.

The 25-year-old’s form has drawn admirers from the Championship, while Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough is expected to reward him with a senior international debut later this month with the first qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup coming up against Italy, in Parma on March 25, and Bulgaria, at Windsor Park on March 31, while there is also a high-profile friendly against the USA at Windsor Park in between.

Charles was born in Preston but qualifies for Northern Ireland through his bloodline and has represented them at Under-21 level.

The international schedule and travel means Stanley will lose Charles for a game, but Coleman said: “I'm delighted for him. It's a reward for all the hard work he's put in.

“But he can't take his eye off the ball and his main priority is scoring as many goals as he can for us.

“I know the way Dion is and I know he's hungry to get as many goals as he can.

“We'll lose him for a game, which is a big blow for us.

"But it's like with injuries, if you get good players you have to be prepared to take that hit now and again, otherwise don't get good players.”

Losing players to international duty is further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with players entering different ‘bubbles’, but Coleman added: "It's a problem but the medical staff will keep him up to speed on what he's got to do and what he hasn't got to do."

Stanley, like all clubs in the Football League, are conducting twice weekly testing, but Coleman stressed they must continue to take precautions.

“It has become easier but I don't think we're out of the woods yet, and I think people have still got to be mindful of that,” he said.

“We're trying to be as mindful as we can the way we operate on a day-to-day basis."