Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Healy: Northern Ireland boss O'Neill needs time to get it right

Patience. That's what Northern Ireland fans must show new national team manager Michael O'Neill, according to David Healy.

The Rangers striker will get his first opportunity to work with O'Neill next month when the latest man to take charge of our wee country makes his bow with a home friendly against Norway on February 29.

After a dismal Euro 2012 qualifying campaign which saw Northern Ireland lose their last four group games and finish fifth, the then manager Nigel Worthington (pictured right) took unprecedented abuse from the Green and White Army before his departure.

O'Neill, with fresh ideas and having said all the right things following his appointment in the final days of 2011, is sure to receive a rousing welcome from the Windsor Park faithful who will expect improvements on recent results.

Healy, who has worked under Sammy McIlroy, Lawrie Sanchez and Worthington, has asked the supporters to give the new boss time and not expect him to perform miracles immediately.

“We haven't had good results recently and it will be a big challenge for Michael to turn things around and he has to be given time by everybody to do that,” says Healy.

“I hope people don't expect him to be an overnight success. This is a transitional period for Northern Ireland and the fans really need to be patient.

“If they are, Michael has shown in his career so far that he has the ability to be a success, but again I would urge everyone to be patient and give the new manager the time he needs to get things right.”

Healy has followed O'Neill's relatively short managerial career and been impressed with what he has seen so far.

“Michael was a big hit at Shamrock Rovers. He won back-to-back League of Ireland titles, which was good going, and he also guided them into the group stages of the Europa League,” said Healy, who himself plans to start his coaching badges in the summer.

“For any Irish side, north or south, that was some achievement. I've heard people say he is not the most experienced boss but I'm sure he will have learnt a lot from all those matches in Europe and hopefully that will stand him in good stead for Northern Ireland.

“There were other good candidates like Iain Dowie and Jim Magilton and there were lots of other names mentioned without any Northern Ireland pedigree.

“Overall I think everyone is happy to have someone who knows what Northern Ireland is all about. Michael's been to Windsor Park for our games the last few years in his role as a BBC pundit so he'll know a lot about the team already and as he gets stuck into the job he will obviously learn even more.”

O'Neill will have a few friendlies before the World Cup games start in September with difficult trips to Portugal and Russia early on.

Healy adds: “It's a tough group with Portugal, Russia and Israel in there. On paper it's actually probably more difficult than our last group.

“We thought we had a chance to do well in the Euro 2012 qualifiers and certainly we felt we could finish above Estonia, who ended up in second place earning a play-off, so it was incredibly disappointing when we ended up in fifth.

“We must realise the big results won't happen all the time for us. We can't expect to go into the World Cup qualifying campaign and win every game, but also we shouldn't forget there is ability in our squad.

“What we must do is get our confidence back, get everyone behind us and hopefully then we can start delivering good performances and good results.”

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