Belfast Telegraph

Michael O'Neill still enjoying being in Northern Ireland seat

By Steven Beacom

Not winning games and constantly losing players through injury, lack of interest or to the Republic of Ireland might have got previous Northern Ireland managers down.

Michael O'Neill, though, has revealed that he is STILL enjoying the role. The reason? His players and their attitude.

Answering his own questions in yesterday's press conference, O'Neill pointed out: "Do I have a good squad of players to work with? Yes. Do they apply themselves? Yes. Are the big players in the squad easy to handle? Yes. The difficulty of the job is meeting the expectations of outside influences and if I'm 100% honest I ignore that so it doesn't make the job that difficult.

"My focus is with the players. That's what I can control. Of course any management job is easier when you are winning games, but if I was turning up and had a squad that weren't focused and didn't apply themselves then it would be difficult.

"That's testament to the likes of Steve Davis, Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Aaron Hughes. Aaron came out of international retirement and we've asked him to play out of position and he never moans about it. As a manager that is a positive and now I hope the players start getting the results they deserve because from a coaching point of view the job has been quite straightforward."

O'Neill disagreed with McAuley who has questioned the atmosphere at Windsor Park in the last couple of years.

"I think the crowd have been great with us," said O'Neill.

"If you look back at the Azerbaijan game they stayed with the team and in the Israel game they were fine. Maybe the players feel it but I don't think there is any difference in the atmosphere from previously.

"It's a two way thing... the team has a responsibility to get the crowd in the right frame of mind and equally if that's done the players respond. We hope, especially for the young players, that they come into an atmosphere against Russia which they are positive about and can enjoy playing in."

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