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Kenny Shiels using Billy Bingham’s class of ’82 to motivate his Northern Ireland Euro squad


Squad selected: Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels has named his 23 players for the Euro finals

Squad selected: Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels has named his 23 players for the Euro finals

Squad selected: Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels has named his 23 players for the Euro finals

The heroes of 1982. The heroines of 2022.

It’s got something of a ring to it.

As the country has spent the last few days revelling in nostalgia on the 40th anniversary of the wonderful triumph over Spain at Espana 82 Kenny Shiels is both reflecting on the past and using it as motivation as he goes about trying to create more glorious memories at the Women’s Euro 2022 finals.

The kind that will last at least 40 years, or even better, a lifetime and inspire not just himself and the 23-player squad that he officially named for the tournament or football fans, but the entire country.

“I always get inspiration from what Northern Ireland did in Spain in 1982. I always did,” said Shiels.

“It was a great achievement by Northern Ireland and anything that Northern Ireland achieves everybody who lives here should feel part of that.

“I certainly feel proud of what Northern Ireland have done, Billy Bingham and all of them because to be in a position myself to represent my country is a great feeling and I have nothing but pride in what we have done in the past as well in the men’s game. It’s absolutely brilliant.”

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There is one particular parallel with those glory days. Northern Ireland face the hosts in their third game at the tournament and, like Bingham’s boys, Shiels would love to be going into that final group encounter with England having the possibility to progress still alive.

In order to do that Northern Ireland would really need to win one of their first two games against either Norway or Austria.

On paper that may look a big ask and Shiels is nobody’s fool, he knows the odds are stacked against his team in all three matches.

Shiels has been down a similar road in the past. He led the Northern Ireland under-17s into the European Championships in 2004, losing to a France team inspired by Karim Benzema and Spain, who included Cesc Fabregas in their team.

Back then he was sending his team into what he knew were tough battles with only victory in mind and that’s what he will do so again because anything else would send out the wrong message.

And Shiels insists senior men’s counterpart Ian Baraclough was right to take the same approach before his team’s ill-fated Nations League matches earlier this month.

“It reminisces to me of 2004 when I took the under-17s to the Euros in France.

“We wanted to get a draw, we were playing against the big fish again – Spain, France – but I don’t think I should break it down like that.

“The girls know the language that we speak in the dressing rooms about what we want to do and how we are going to do it.

“I would relate this to Ian Baraclough, who was asked the question about the Nations League games and he expected to win all of the games.

“He didn’t say it like that, he wasn’t arrogant by any stretch. He said, which is logical, that he didn’t see any reason why the team couldn’t win all four matches and that sent out a message of motivation to his players.

“Some people took arrogance from that, but I think he was totally right to say it.

“I’m not going to say that we should win all three matches in the group.

“It’s taking one game – Norway – all of our energy is focussed on that and then when that is done and dusted our energy goes to Austria.

“I can’t predict that we are going to beat any of these teams – I can’t predict that, that’s not possible.”

Squad wise there are no major shocks either in those selected to go to Southampton or those who have been left behind, but maybe one slight surprise in each category.

Shannon Turner will travel as the third goalkeeper despite having only joined the senior ranks a matter of weeks ago after being out of the international reckoning since her under-19 days.

Kerry Beattie not making the cut is the one stand-out omission.

Shiels said that he felt for the players he had to leave out and consoled the likes of Beattie and Toni Leigh Finnegan with the fact that they are young enough to have another chance.

Turner’s selection being based on the fear that his other two options in goal could be harmed if he had taken them.

“We have struggled in the goalkeeping department,” said Shiels.

“We have to make our judgement on what we feel and we have to take the three best goalkeepers.

“There are two development goalkeepers in behind that, which is Lilie Crooks who is 18-years-old coming 19 and Maddy Harvey-Clifford who is in and around the same age and psychologically they aren’t ready to go and play in this massive tournament, in the finals.

“It would maybe have destroyed them so the other three were obvious ones with a little bit more experience.”

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