Northern Ireland players unite in dedicating win to Michael O'Neill
A determination to end Michael O’Neill’s wait for a win as Northern Ireland manager played a major part in the 1-0 win over Russia in Wednesday night’s World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park.
The players were united on the pitch as they pulled off another famous victory and they showed their togetherness by assembling in a post-match huddle on the pitch in order to congratulate each other.
And that strong bond goes beyond the 90 minutes of football as well, with the players driven by a desire to rid the manager of the record of failing to win a match since taking the job.
A defeat at the hands of Russia would have put O’Neill in the record books — but not in a way that he would want.
No other Northern Ireland manager has gone 10 games without enjoying a win.Peter Doherty’s record reads two draws and seven defeats before he got a win and thankfully for O’Neill his didn’t take his own personal statistic into double figures.
“That win was for the boss,” said Aberdeen forward Niall McGinn.
“We had massive belief going into the match, although few people gave us any hope.
“The boss has waited a long time for a victory so that was for him.
“It was an unbelievable night, played in an electric atmosphere. There is a great togetherness in the squad, demonstrated with our reaction afterwards.
“We got together in a huddle just to congratulate each other.”
The win over Russia wasn’t only a first for O’Neill.
Captain Steven Davis hadn’t led the team to victory since being handed the role by O’Neill when he took charge in February last year.
Rather than taking the glory himself he was quick to pass the credit onto O’Neill as he dedicated the win to the manager.
“We have put a lot of work in since Michael took over and haven’t got our rewards really,” said Davis.
“It’s one for everybody, one for the players, one for the manager and one for the fans.
“It was nice to get that result, take a big scalp and to see Windsor rocking again.
“It’s been a difficult period, but we all knew it was going to be a time of transition.”
Davis has experienced the famous wins over England, Spain, Sweden, Poland and Slovenia in the past, his midfield partner against Russia, Huddersfield Town’s Oliver Norwood, was savouring his first victory as a senior international.
It has taken him 11 games to do so — even more than O’Neill — but the 22-year-old, who was also one of the stars of the 1-1 draw in Portugal last October, was quick to dedicate the result to the manager as well.
“The lads wanted to do it for Michael,” said midfielder Oliver Norwood.
“We all owe Michael so much. He has given us a lot of belief in the dressing room and he’s always telling us to keep going and keep going and we deserved the win.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital