Belfast Telegraph

A Who's Who of the staff who make up Northern Ireland's recipe for success

By Steven Beacom

Manager Michael O'Neill and his players have rightly received much praise for their part in Northern Ireland's incredible run of results, but they will be the first to say they have not done it alone.

Those in the team behind the team play important roles too… So just who are they all?

Jimmy Nicholl - Assistant Manager

Known as Jimmy Nic, the 61-year-old is a Northern Ireland legend having played in the finals of two World Cups (1982 and 1986). Recruited as assistant manager in March 2015, the former Manchester United and Rangers defender offers valuable advice to boss O'Neill and provides big game insight and experience to the players. The ex-Raith and Millwall manager is also a fantastic story teller and, when tensions are running high, can put the group at ease with a hilarious tale from his playing days.

Northern Ireland assistant boss Jimmy Nicholl

Austin MacPhee - Assistant Coach

Combines his international role with that of being a coach at Hearts. Brought on board before the South American tour in 2014, MacPhee has become a key figure. Like O'Neill, he is a master of detail be it with opposition analysis, set plays or coaching. As well as working with the group as a whole, MacPhee is adept at speaking to individuals and helping them see their own job clearly plus a wider picture of the game.

Assistant Coach Austin McPhee

Maik Taylor - Goalkeeping Coach

Another Northern Ireland playing hero who excelled in famous victories over England and Spain at Windsor Park. The former Fulham and Birmingham City No.1 is renowned for being a nice guy, but that doesn't stop him working the socks off Michael McGovern, Roy Carroll and Alan Mannus on international duty. He won 88 caps and knows what is required between the sticks at international level. Celebrated his 45th birthday on the same night Northern Ireland defeated the Czech Republic 2-0.

Goalkeeping coach Maik Taylor.

Caroline Woods - Head Physiotherapist

The lady you see racing onto the pitch when a player is injured is Caroline Woods. She has become a popular member of the backroom staff and has the respect and trust of the manager and his players. Caroline (right) is all about player welfare and will liaise with Northern Ireland's sports scientists and the players' clubs to have full knowledge of their fitness levels or any injury issues they may have. She first worked with a Northern Ireland team at the Milk Cup in 1998. Neil McCullough and Darren McMaster operate as physiotherapists for Northern Ireland. Dr David White is also on hand for advice.

Caroline Woods

Dr Richard McCann - Head of Sports Science

Dr McCann and Paul Walsh (sports scientist) are the men tasked with monitoring everything from fitness to food to sleep in order for the players to be in the best shape possible. They also look after recovery of the players, which is crucial, especially in double headers. Through the Sports Institute based at Ulster University Jordanstown, Dr McCann has worked with Northern Ireland since 2009 while Walshy, as he's known to the rest of the staff, has been involved for the last four years.

Dr Richard McCann (right)

Raymond Millar, Colin McGiffert, Stephen Ferguson - Kitmen

No successful sports team can operate without kitmen, who relish a bit of banter with the players and coaching team. Millar has been with the IFA for over a decade and was appointed full-time kit manager to O'Neill's team in 2011. Along with McGiffert and Ferguson, he ensures training gear and match strips are ready and waiting for players and deals with any requests they may have. Another vital person is David Currie, Head of International Administration. One of his important tasks is to ensure that training bases and hotels are up to the standard required.

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