Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 March 2015

In Pictures: 10 things new Northern Ireland manager must do

The next Northern Ireland manager is going to need the support of the team's dedicated fans
1. Get the Green and White Army behind you right away
It didn't take long for Nigel Worthington to frustrate the fans. In only his second game in charge back in 2007 he dropped defender Stephen Craigan, who had played in all the major wins in the few years before. Result: a defeat in Latvia.
Four days later, incredibly Craigan was excluded from the side again. Result: a defeat in Iceland.
With those two losses went any chance that Northern Ireland had of qualifying for the Euro 2008 finals - a dream that had looked a reality when Northern Ireland moved top of their qualifying group midway through the campaign.
I'm not sure Nigel ever recovered from that disappointment with many supporters.
In recent months the anger of the fans towards the boss was evident. The new man will have to get the Green and White Army on his side right from the start by talking positively about how he is going to restore the pride, passion and belief in the team.
That will appeal and then it’s a case of getting a few positive results in the first friendlies.
2. Make a phone call to retired Aaron Hughes
Out of the several players who have retired from international duty in recent times, Aaron Hughes is the one that we will miss most.
I know the Fulham defender, such a fabulous servant down the years, has stated there will be no turning back with his decision, but surely it is worth a call in the New Year to tempt him into a return.
If he says yes, what a bonus for the new reign. If not, well at least we won't be left wondering. Aaron is 31 and easily has another campaign left in him. Other players look up to him for the way he acts on and off the field and it would be a real boost if the defender could be persuaded to give international football another go.
Nigel Worthington
4. Hand super Steve Davis the armband
In the conversation with Aaron Hughes the new manager could tell him if he returns he could focus on playing and wouldn't have to handle the pressure of captaincy and all the media interviews that goes with it. Why? Because Steve Davis is ready to step up to the plate.
When he was given the Northern Ireland armband to mark his 50th cap against Estonia last Friday, he was one of the few players to stand up and deliver. The goal that he scored illustrated his drive and passion to succeed for his country - the ideal choice as our next skipper.
Nigel Worthington
6. Get the best out of the talented Chris Brunt
One of those players who shines in the English Premier League is Chris Brunt.
Over the past few seasons Brunt has been brilliant for West Brom. He has an outstanding passing range, crosses a dangerous ball, has a wicked shot and as captain of the club has rose in stature.
But with Northern Ireland no-one has managed to get the best out a talented individual who could be something really special for us.
7. Stop the boys picking up stupid suspensions
It will make the new manager's life a lot easier when he has all or most of his players available. You can't do much about injuries save wrapping every player in cotton wool (some would still end up getting a knock) but suspensions are another matter.
Too often in the Euro campaign, players picked up needless bookings. The worst scenario was Jonny Evans getting a yellow card late on in the Serbia defeat which saw him miss the crucial visit to Estonia. Kyle Lafferty also collects cards like it's Christmas. These lads must be told to wise up.
8. Inspire David Healy to find his scoring touch
Veteran goalkeeper Maik Taylor says the players who don't turn up for internationals should take as much responsibility for poor results as those who do.
Thankfully, we've never had a commitment problem with record goalscorer David Healy. Kyle Lafferty is the main man in attack now (when he plays) but there should still be a place in the next manager's squad for Healy. Like when Lawrie Sanchez came in, David could be inspired and hit the goal trail again.
9. Make Windsor Park a fortress once again
One of the most disappointing aspects lately has been the poor home form. The only team to leave Windsor Park on the end of a beating in the Euro campaign was the Faroe Islands.
It was fantastic hammering them, but apart from that in the other four qualifiers at Windsor, we only scored one goal.
Given the teams that have left the place in recent years wondering what has hit them, that’s pretty dismal. Windsor must become a hostile place again in time for the visit of Portugal, Russia and the like in the World Cup qualifiers.
10. Be lucky, pray a lot and try to enjoy it
Sammy McIlroy (pictured after a defeat to Czech Republic) was deemed unfortunate in his time in charge and on occasion Nigel Worthington didn't get many breaks. Let's hope our new boss can ride his luck and unearth a few young gems like Shane Ferguson who seemingly didn't want to play for Worthington. Get Liverpool kid Ryan McLaughlin involved too — a star in the making. Also the manager will have to pray and if possible enjoy it. After all, he'll be doing a job we'd all love a crack at.

Irish FA bigwigs will meet in the coming weeks to decide who to target as Nigel Worthington’s successor.

Sure to come up in the conversation will be Martin O’Neill, Michael O’Neill, Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie, who all served their country with distinction as players in the past. It will take a lot of work though, as outlined here.

>>Click More Pictures to launch gallery

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