Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Bryan Hamilton insists IFA must keep faith with protege Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill's former international manager Bryan Hamilton still believes the ex-Hibs midfielder is right man for the job, even after the humiliating 3-2 defeat in Luxembourg.

Hamilton – who was in charge when O'Neill scored twice in a famous 5-3 win over Austria in 1995 – believes that a knee-jerk reaction to Tuesday's defeat wouldn't solve Northern Ireland's problems.

Hamilton said: "I think the IFA should stand by Michael O'Neill. I don't even think the manager's future should be questioned at this stage.

"The defeat to Luxembourg was very disappointing but making a knee-jerk change like sacking the manager won't help us in the long term. We need a long term solution, not a short term fix, and I think Michael is the right person to oversee those changes."

In recent years Northern Ireland have been able to beat the likes of Russia, yet still struggle to beat the minnows of international football. Hamilton was keen to point out that this is nothing new.

When Hamilton held the post, Northern Ireland got positive results against Austria and Portugal, yet were denied a place at Euro '96 due to a 2-1 defeat against Latvia at Windsor Park.

The former Ipswich Town player explained: "We were very poor against Luxembourg and I'm sure all supporters of Northern Ireland are very disappointed with the result. We all are – I think everyone is thinking the same way.

"But this is problem is nothing new, it was the same when I was the manager. We've always been very inconsistent. Other nations like Portugal and Russia have players who you can rely on to perform on a regular basis. Our players are limited, and only play well maybe four times out of ten."

The now Eurosport co-commentator believes Northern Ireland's problems run much deeper than the current squad of players. Hamilton believes the standard of coaching in the UK must improve for the home nations to succeed.

"We have to put the structures in place that teach young players the right way to play football.

"It dates back to my time as Northern Ireland manager when I was arguing for smaller posts and small sided matches for young players, but for whatever reason we didn't implement that as quickly or as well as we should have."

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