Belfast Telegraph

I can take NI women to a higher level, insists new manager Kenny Shiels

Taking charge: Northern Ireland women’s managerKenny Shiels with captain Marissa Callaghan at his Windsor Park unveiling
Taking charge: Northern Ireland women’s managerKenny Shiels with captain Marissa Callaghan at his Windsor Park unveiling
Alfie Wylie

By Steven Beacom

Kenny Shiels has revealed that he turned down offers to manage in the Irish League and League of Ireland again before becoming boss of the Northern Ireland women's senior team.

Sacked by Derry City in October, the 63-year-old has been waiting for the right opportunity to come along to return to the dug-out and is confident that his latest role offers him the chance to make a major difference.

Shiels takes over from Alfie Wylie, who has become Head of Women's Elite Performance at the Irish FA, and at his Windsor Park unveiling yesterday outlined the dream scenario is to guide Northern Ireland to the finals of a major tournament.

The former Coleraine, Ballymena United and Kilmarnock boss has signed a two-year deal and is looking forward to working with his players at a training camp next month ahead of his first match in charge - a European Championship qualifier at home to Norway in August. Also in Northern Ireland's group are Wales, Belarus and the Faroe Islands.

"I turned down an Irish League club in October and a League of Ireland one in November. It wouldn't be fair to say who," said Shiels.

"I feel this job with Northern Ireland is more appropriate to my style of play.

"I look at the pitches in the Irish League and the way the game is played now in the Irish League; it's stood still quite a lot and football has moved on.

"If there was summer football it would be more appealing to me, but what's appealing to me right at this time is the Northern Ireland job and that is where my passions lie."

On a similar theme, Shiels added that returning to his old club Coleraine, who are looking for a new boss after Rodney McAree's departure, was a no go at this point.

"I don't think it would be fair to Coleraine; if it went to a summer league where you can go into a full-time environment then my skills would come out, but now it's like two different games and I don't think I could manage in the Irish League at this minute," he said.

Shiels has enjoyed success at international level before with the Northern Ireland Under-17s and has faith he can deliver again.

"I will bring success. Success would be to become more established as a nation," said Shiels.

"If you look at the co-efficient of Northern Ireland, which includes the clubs and the international side, it's 52 out of 54.

"That's too low for me. When I took over Northern Ireland's Under-17 in 2000 and left in 2007, we went from 43 out of 50 nations then, to ninth.

"It's up to me to move us up the co-efficient rankings and use that as our league table as we go. I want to improve performances and outcomes on the pitch."

Quizzed about the possibility of inspiring Northern Ireland's women to the finals of a major tournament, Shiels said: "I'm not going to say we are going to qualify for a major tournament but that has to be the goal.

"What I will say is that I will improve the team.

"I'm not saying anything bad about my predecessor but I feel as though I have the right style of play to improve Northern Ireland, and when we get more happiness into the dressing room, we will prosper and do better.

"I think it is realistic to believe we can qualify for a major tournament but when is it realistic? If you are 52 out of 54 it doesn't sound realistic, but I believe we can make a dent in it and improve."

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