Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

IFA chief backs Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland's goal-scorer David Healy is comforted by manager Michael O'Neill at the end of the game after the team secured a disappointing draw against Azerbaijan in Wednesday night's World Cup 2014 Qualifier at Windsor Park, Belfast

Irish FA President Jim Shaw has told frustrated Northern Ireland supporters to give Michael O'Neill time, predicting that the manager will get it right in terms of results in the future.

While Shaw admits home draws against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the World Cup qualifiers are not good enough, he insists that O'Neill is under no pressure whatsoever from the IFA despite failing to win any of his opening seven matches in charge.

Shaw (right) is realistic enough to know that already any chance of making the 2014 finals is over after Wednesday night's desperate 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan at Windsor Park, but believes in time things will improve.

“From a supporters point of view, it is important to win and we have to accept that,” said Shaw.

“But there is no pressure on Michael O'Neill at all — he is working with a squad that I feel has gelled really well over the last few months. I still think he is the man for the job. He needs time. I know football managers sometimes don't get much time, but that's what he needs.”

President Shaw accepted: “We have started the campaign at home with the two lowest rated teams in the group and we haven't been able to put either of them away and that is disappointing.

“We do need to get to a stage where we are beating the lesser teams.

“I believe we will get to a stage where we can compete with most of the teams we will face and get good results out of the games like we did in Portugal drawing there last month.”

On the 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan, secured by David Healy's injury time free-kick, Shaw said he was heartened by the number of opportunities carved out.

“We created numerous chances and I would say it was a pretty good performance. Had we taken our chances it would have been an excellent performance,” stated Shaw.

“Of course we should be creating against Azerbaijan but I have never seen Northern Ireland in my 50 years of watching them create as many good chances.”

Shaw, who hailed the support of the crowd at Windsor Park and slammed the time wasting antics of the Azerbaijan players, added: “Realistically you would have to say our chances of reaching the World Cup finals are over.

“Don't take this negatively but from the day the draw was made in Brazil we weren't that confident we could get first or second in the group but you live in hope.

“We could have nine points because we could have won our last three games against Luxembourg, Portugal and Azerbaijan.

“Instead we drew all those games 1-1 giving us just three points which means our chances of going to Brazil are not high.

“I understand the frustrations of the fans because I am one, but the Russia and Israel games in March give us a chance to redress the situation at Windsor and I'd urge the fans to come out and support the team like they did on Wednesday.”

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