Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland v Norway: Shiels feared he would never make comeback

By Stuart McKinley

Dean Shiels has revealed that he’d given up on playing for Northern Ireland again while former manager Nigel Worthington was in charge.

Shiels was overlooked completely during the last two years of Worthington’s reign and, after playing just five times in 41 games under the previous boss, he had resigned himself to his international career being over .

Now, with Worthington gone, Shiels has won an immediate recall from new supremo Michael O’Neill and he is excited by the prospect of winning his 10th cap against Norway tomorrow night.

“When you are in the squad and then you get left out the initial reaction is disappointment,” said Shiels, who hasn’t played for Northern Ireland since a friendly in Albania in February 2010.

“The expectations when you’re not in each squad become lower and lower, towards the end I wasn’t expecting to be in the squad at all under the last manager no matter what.

“The last manager has gone now and the new one has brought me into his first squad. There’s a fresh start for some people and I’m

one of them. I just have to try to use that to my advantage.

“Michael called me and explained his reasons for calling me up and I was delighted.

“He said he felt I deserved to be called up as a reflection of my club form and now it’s up to me to try to impress him in training and in games and stay in the squad.”

The smile on Shiels’ face as he faced the written press yesterday at the Northern Ireland team headquarters and his general demeanour displayed a contentment within the 27-year-old.

That is down, in no small part, to him currently savouring what he says is ‘probably one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had on a personal level’ since joining his dad Kenny, who is his manager at Kilmarnock.

His upbeat mood continued as he joked of a relationship with his manager that can be ‘hot and cold’ before adding: “It’s not difficult. I obviously know the way he wants his teams to play and what he expects from me, so maybe that gives me a bit of a head start.”

Shiels has scored seven times since returning to the Scottish Premier League after a spell at Doncaster Rovers, the most notable of those being the winner against Rangers at Ibrox 10 days ago.

“I am still learning and I still have a lot to learn,” said Shiels.

“I am maturing and I have matured a lot in the last two or three years. Hopefully I am seeing the benefits of that now.

“I think that I’ve come back to the SPL a better player than when I left, but I’ve got to try to keep improving at that level.

“Hopefully if I can bring my club form then I can do what the manager wants me to do. If I can do that for my club then it’ll be a bonus.”

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