Belfast Telegraph

Dwindling number of Northern Ireland Premier League players worries Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill admits the falling influence of Northern Irish players on the Premier League is a worrying trend for his team.

A study by Opta, commissioned by the BBC, revealed that players from Northern Ireland accounted for just 0.945 per cent of minutes played in England's top flight so far this season.

That is a dramatic drop of 60 per cent compared to 2007-08, when a strong Fulham contingent under Lawrie Sanchez helped raise numbers.

Representation in the Championship is also down around 40 per cent in that time.

"Of course it's a concern," admitted Northern Ireland boss O'Neill.

"The statistics for both divisions are down, less than one per cent game time in the Premier League and down 40 per cent in the Championship. It's early in the season so the longer it goes you'd expect those stats to decrease rather than increase due to the nature of selection.

"We need more of our players in the Premier League. We want those in the Championship, League One and Scotland to potentially play at that higher level."

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