Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: Michael O'Neill ensuring Northern Ireland have stars for future

By Steven Beacom

Jim Magilton made a good living out of football by being able to keep possession. He had other qualities too, like awareness, touch and an ability to score the odd cracking goal, but more than anything the midfielder's game was built around passing. Long and short.

These days Magilton coaches Northern Ireland's most gifted young footballers.

Yesterday the IFA announced he would head a new Northern Ireland under-21 management structure, containing fellow former internationals Kevin Horlock and Damien Johnson.

Those two had a bit of class about them as well and like Magilton knew the value of having the ball rather than chasing after the opposition for it.

Ex-Welsh star Mark Crossley, who saved a Gary Lineker penalty in the 1991 FA Cup final, makes up the four-man team as goalkeeping coach.

The legendary David Healy and Stephen Craigan also coach youngsters for the IFA.

You have to hand it to Michael O'Neill... not only is he taking the senior Northern Ireland side to the Euro 2016 finals in France, he's also putting solid foundations in place to give our future stars their best chance of progressing.

Magilton, Horlock and Johnson are just the men to pass on their knowledge to the next generation... in every sense.

Belfast Telegraph

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