Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill is building for future: McKinlay

By Rory Dollard

Michael O'Neill may not have got the results he would have liked since taking over as Northern Ireland boss, but assistant Billy McKinlay insists he is putting the national side on the right course for future success.

McKinlay, the former Scotland midfielder who has been O'Neill's right-hand man for the last two years, does not hide from the fact that one win in 14 matches is a below-par return but is full of praise for the way his friend has tackled the job.

O'Neill has been active in attempting to improve Northern Ireland's footballing foundations and has kept a keener eye on the full range of age group sides than most of his peers.

He has also overseen the addition of experienced former internationals such as Jim Magilton, Stephen Robinson, Kevin Horlock and Stephen Craigan to the Irish FA's pay-roll, all valuable work according to McKinlay.

"Behind the scenes I think Michael has done a really, really good job," said the Fulham coach.

"He has had to take decisions and we will now see where that is going to take us. We knew the infrastructure had to improve and we had to build foundations for now and the future.

"I think Michael has done an unbelievable job; he is a highly intelligent and extremely motivated individual.

"I think the IFA recognise the job Michael is doing with the team and behind the scenes. This is a work in progress and hopefully we will continue to improve."

Given the long-term nature O'Neill's plans, it may fall to an eventual successor to enjoy the full fruits of his labour, but McKinlay also expects a more immediate upturn in fortunes.

"Whether or not Michael and I see the benefits of what we are trying to implement isn't something I think about, as long as it stands Northern Ireland in good stead for the future," he said. "But of course we want instant success on the pitch, too. I am hopeful and confident that can happen and we will hopefully get more points on the board in the next campaign.

"There is a pressure from us. We haven't achieved what we set out to do yet."

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