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Jimmy Nicholl: Replacing Michael O'Neill will be as hard as finding Billy Bingham's successor at Northern Ireland

 

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Michael O'Neill's shoes will be as hard to fill as Billy Bingham's were when he left the Northern Ireland manager's role in 1994, to be replaced by Bryan Hamilton.

Michael O'Neill's shoes will be as hard to fill as Billy Bingham's were when he left the Northern Ireland manager's role in 1994, to be replaced by Bryan Hamilton.

Jimmy Nicholl

Jimmy Nicholl

Michael O'Neill's shoes will be as hard to fill as Billy Bingham's were when he left the Northern Ireland manager's role in 1994, to be replaced by Bryan Hamilton.

Jimmy Nicholl believes that the Irish FA's search to appoint Michael O'Neill's successor as Northern Ireland manager will be similar to finding a replacement for the great Billy Bingham.

 

Nicholl should know. In the last 60 years, Bingham and O'Neill are the only two bosses to take Northern Ireland to major tournaments and the former Manchester United and Rangers star worked with them both.

He was an influential player in Bingham's glory days with Northern Ireland when the side qualified for the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and later coached under him, while he joined O'Neill's backroom staff in 2015 and proved to be a popular figure with the players as the team reached Euro 2016.

"It will be like replacing Billy because Michael got the team to a major tournament in Euro 2016 and very nearly got us to the 2018 World Cup. Everything will be judged on that," said Nicholl.

"That's why the 1982 and 1986 boys and Billy Bingham are still so highly thought of because people were given great memories.

"The 2016 lads will be the same and Michael being manager was the man behind that. When you give a generation of people great memories, they will always talk about them and Michael did that.

"The gap between tournaments for Northern Ireland was 30 years and when you think about the great nights under him at Windsor Park and the team and the fans going to France, it will be difficult to follow just as it was following Billy."

Nicholl knows the three favourites for the vacant post, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, recently departed St Johnstone supremo Tommy Wright and Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough.

"I have spoken to Michael and said it will be difficult for whoever comes in and a big challenge but as long as they don't change too much and let the players keep doing what they have been doing they will have a chance," said Nicholl.

"I know all the lads who have been linked with the job, the likes of Robbo, Tommy and Ian. They all have their own personalities, experience, knowledge and the wisdom you need and they will know what to do."

Belfast Telegraph