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Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill can become a standard bearer for British coaches: Lawrie McMenemy

By Steven Beacom

Published 22/04/2016

Going up: Michael O’Neill’s work is admired by Lawrie McMenemy
Going up: Michael O’Neill’s work is admired by Lawrie McMenemy

Former Northern Ireland boss Lawrie McMenemy believes the current supremo of the international team Michael O'Neill has the ability to become a standard bearer for what is good about British coaching.

McMenemy watched in admiration as O'Neill inspired Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and says with the manager's professional approach the team could create surprises in France.

The ex-Southampton manager also feels O'Neill has what it takes to be a hit in the Premier League and has shown that it is not only foreign coaches who can succeed on the big stage.

"I have never met Michael O'Neill, but I have watched him from afar and it is clear he has done exceptionally well with Northern Ireland," said McMenemy.

Read more: Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill: No job would stop me taking Green and White Army to Euros

"I know more than most how difficult it is to manage a country like Northern Ireland with limited resources, so full marks to Michael for what he has achieved taking the team to the Euro finals.

"One of the big reasons why Northern Ireland were miles away for years in not qualifying was because they simply didn't have the players.

"Even in my day there wasn't a lot of Premier League players to choose from and I believe Michael O'Neill has even fewer now.

"And if you think about it none of those players he has in the top flight are like a Wayne Rooney. They are good solid players.

"The biggest single thing that Michael has instilled into his players is the value of teamwork. He has everyone working for each other. You can see it in games. They are all in it together.

"And what is so impressive is that he has brought all these players together from different levels to make the side a huge success.

"It has shown through in how they won so many games in qualifying and winning their group."

McMenemy does not hide his delight that O'Neill is a British coach delivering on a global stage.

"He has proved that he can manage at the top level and I would think he would be in demand," added Big Mac.

"The thing now in the Premier League is that most clubs are owned by foreign people or businesses and managed by foreign coaches.

"You can't knock foreign managers for taking the job, but personally, for the development of British coaches, I would like to see more British managers in charge of Premier League clubs.

"Michael O'Neill can be one of the standard bearers for British football coaches because he has shown what he can do at international level and in the summer he won't get a bigger platform than the Euros to show his worth.

"Everyone watches the Euros and the World Cups and I'm hoping Michael delivers again and shows that British managers can shine on the biggest stage."

On Northern Ireland's chances in France, McMenemy says: "Having a professional man like Michael O'Neill in charge will stand them in good stead because he will have prepared them properly and they will be ready for the challenge.

"From the point of view of the players they know they have upset the odds by getting to the finals and they will believe they can carry on doing it.

"Every game for Northern Ireland in the tournament will be like a cup final and although they will start as underdogs in their group they'll feel anything is possible."

Belfast Telegraph

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