Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill deserves to get a long-term deal, says Warren Feeney

Applause: Warren Feeney has praised NI’s achievement
Applause: Warren Feeney has praised NI’s achievement

By Steven Beacom

Former Northern Ireland striker Warren Feeney has stated that it is a "no brainer" for the Irish FA to hand manager Michael O'Neill a new four-year contract.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that the IFA were set to reward O'Neill with a long-term deal for inspiring the team to Euro 2016 and last week we told how there would be clauses in the contract allowing the boss to talk to interested clubs after the finals in France and that the IFA would receive hefty compensation if he decided to move on.

For the Association it would be a change of direction as in the past they have preferred to work with two-year deals.

Newport County assistant boss Feeney insists the IFA have to listen to their successful manager.

"I know it is not generally what the IFA do but it has to happen this time," said Feeney.

"A new four-year deal for Michael O'Neill is a no brainer. He believes that is best and the IFA should listen to him, especially after all that he has done for the country.

"Michael had a difficult time in the World Cup qualifiers at the start of his reign but thankfully he was allowed to stay on for the Euro finals and look what he has achieved.

"It has been a magnificent effort from him and the players to qualify for France.

"I'm sure after the finals there will be interest in him from clubs, but that shouldn't stop the IFA from giving him a long-term deal.

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"Michael knows that the squad will change for the 2018 World Cup group, and some younger players will come in and for them they will be stronger come the Euro 2020 campaign so a four-year contract is a sensible option."

Ex-Linfield boss Feeney, who won 46 caps, was in the Northern Ireland squad that had a chance to qualify for the 2008 European Championship finals.

They couldn't get over the line, despite David Healy scoring a record breaking 13 goals in the campaign.

Feeney believes the character the team showed in the 3-1 victory against Greece at Windsor Park last month to qualify without some influential players will stand them in good stead going forward.

"There was pressure on the game with Greece because I'm sure the boys didn't want qualification to go down to the last match, but the way they played was great to see," said Feeney.

"You could tell they were ready for it and weren't going to let the opportunity slip. That showed a great mental attitude. The manager and the players deserve a lot of credit for that.

"And they did it without Kyle Lafferty, Chris Baird and Conor McLaughlin, who were suspended, and those three had played big parts beforehand.

"That result and the performance against Greece is something that the players will draw great confidence from.

"I know the boys have several friendlies to play before the finals and they have to focus on those but come France the spotlight will be on Northern Ireland, and now they know they can deliver when it really matters.

"I know quite a lot of the boys and played alongside some of them with Northern Ireland and I'm so pleased that they have reached a major tournament. It's a great boost for the country and our fans."

Belfast Telegraph