Belfast Telegraph

Neil Lennon will go to European Championships finals... as a television pundit

By Steven Beacom

All 10 of Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifiers were shown live on Sky Sports. Come the finals in France next year though, Michael O'Neill's men will be on BBC and ITV.

Sky and BT Sport may corner the market in other areas, but they have yet to make a breakthrough when it comes to the business end of major football tournaments.

Terrestial television is still ahead in that particular game and will be for some time after the Beeb and ITV signed a deal to share coverage of the Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 finals. They also have the rights to screen the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

The last time Northern Ireland were in a major tournament, of course, was back in 1986. Much has changed in the broadcast media world since then, not least the number of ex-players turned pundits who are paid handsomely for their opinions.

With Northern Ireland making it to France, both the BBC and ITV are already targeting people with an affiliation to our wee country who can speak with authority on O'Neill's players come match night, for either live coverage or a highlights package later that evening.

Top of the list is Bolton boss Neil Lennon, articulate and an ex-Northern Ireland midfielder, who is well-known UK wide. He ticks all the boxes. The Beeb are favourites to land him for France.

His old boss at Leicester and Celtic, Martin O'Neill, is likely to be in the ITV chair for Northern Ireland games, if the Republic of Ireland fail to beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Euro play-offs.

Others in the mix for network TV work next year will be ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, a close friend of O'Neill's, plus Keith Gillespie while Gerry Taggart and Steve Lomas are among a list of former Northern Ireland stars in line to air their views on the team on national radio.

Belfast Telegraph