Belfast Telegraph

Michael O'Neill's stock and profile is on a sharp rise after heroic Northern Ireland Euro qualification campaign

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill is on the X-Factor this weekend. It is Simon Cowell's latest attempt to stop the slide in the show's ratings. This one might actually work as everything else O'Neill touches turns to gold at the moment.

Okay, before you tune in expecting to see Michael beside Cheryl on the judging panel, that's a joke, but what isn't is the continuing rise of O'Neill's football profile.

Today he is due to announce his squad for the November 13 friendly at Windsor Park against Latvia.

That means more media duties for the 46-year-old who is becoming used to dealing with regular interview requests from television shows and UK-wide newspapers.

The media over here has been interested in O'Neill since his appointment as national team boss, but thanks to him inspiring Northern Ireland to Euro 2016, he has become major news elsewhere.

Earlier this week, he was interviewed by one of the Daily Mail's big hitters, Ian Ladyman. Before that, a host of other English and Scottish newspapers were in touch. Even a Far East magazine has covered O'Neill and Northern Ireland's story.

The closer we get to France, the more other sports writers from around the globe will want a piece of the Ballymena man.

Then there's the TV companies. At the weekend, Michael was a pundit for Sky Sports on their coverage of Hibs v Rangers. Before that, he was on BT Sport's Fletch and Sav.

All the while he has come across as an intelligent, articulate guy who knows the game. This profile isn't just good for O'Neill, it boosts the Northern Ireland team and IFA, ready to offer him a new four-year contract.

It's also worth noting that chairmen and directors of clubs across the water will be reading and watching what O'Neill has had to say. They will have been impressed.

218 days to go!

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