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Jonny Evans accepts Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill will have suitors

Published 11/11/2015

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans sees a bright future for manager Michael O'Neill - with club or country
Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans sees a bright future for manager Michael O'Neill - with club or country

Jonny Evans is desperate for Michael O'Neill to commit his future to Northern Ireland, but believes he has the qualities to succeed in the Barclays Premier League.

Having played the majority of his career under the peerless Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Evans has a high bar to measure against.

And the West Brom defender is full of praise for O'Neill, who took his side from fifth seeds to a first ever European Championship next summer.

Discussions are under way on a new deal but O'Neill's profile is on the rise and a strong showing in France next summer would surely see the suitors lining up at Windsor Avenue.

"I think it's something that will be talked about," admitted Evans.

"It would be sad for us as players if it got to a situation where he wasn't here. We'd all love to see him stay on.

"We know how much he puts into that so he deserves what he's got."

Asked if the 46-year-old could be just as successful in English football, Evans said: "Yes, I think so.

"What I like about him is he won't just settle for what's there, he'll try to improve. The fact is he's only with us for 10 days at a time and has improved us as players, as a team, as individuals.

"If he got hold of a team on a regular basis he would no doubt improve them.

"His style of coaching is based around thinking about the game, not just running the legs off the lads.

"I could sit down and talk football for hours with him.

"He's a real thinker of the game, which I like, and he looks at things from different angles. I like the way he wants his teams to play.

"Michael's made us successful by the way he wants to play - taking the game to the opposition. We've scored goals, we've kept clean sheets.

"He gets everyone playing for him and his tactical understanding is fantastic."

Evans is due to return to the starting XI for Friday night's friendly against Latvia.

Injury meant he missed the famous night at Windsor Park last month when victory over Greece sealed a first major tournament in 30 years, and the subsequent lap of honour in Finland.

But he was still with the squad in Belfast for the build-up and is still coming to terms with an achievement many thought would never come.

"It was frustrating from a personal level but putting those feelings aside it was such a big night for the country, for the team, for the manager...I was just so excited for the game, the whole of Northern Ireland was," he added.

"There's a much bigger prize at stake than my own personal achievements. I'm just glad as a country we're able to go to France and represent the country."

Despite topping their qualifying pool Northern Ireland will be among the bottom seeds for the draw on December 12, meaning a tough group is virtually guaranteed.

But for Evans, who made his international debut in the remarkable 3-2 win over Spain in 2006, it's a case of the bigger the better.

"Once the play-offs are through maybe I'll think about it...there's always talk of who we're going to get," he said.

"But we've always seemed to do well against the big countries.

"On such a big stage maybe it would be nice to get one of the big boys and see how we do. It would make for a great occasion."

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