Belfast Telegraph

Michael has taken big step to halting FAI's raids: Hamilton


By Steven Beacom

World Cup hero Billy Hamilton has backed Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill for speaking out about the FAI's policy in recruiting northern born players to turn out for the Republic of Ireland.

In a hard hitting interview this week O'Neill claimed that the FAI are selective in their approach, targeting Catholics, and declared that he wanted to come to a 'gentleman's agreement' with Republic boss Martin O'Neill relating to the controversial issue.

The younger O'Neill would like to secure an agreement whereby the FAI would not pursue players from the ages of 17 to 21 who had represented NI.

It is understood that on the back of the Northern Ireland manager's comments, the O'Neills have held a discussion about the subject with the Republic boss sure to be asked by the media today for his thoughts when he attends a squad announcement in Dublin.

Under FIFA rules players born in Northern Ireland are free to play for the Republic.

Hamilton, who played alongside Martin O'Neill in the Northern Ireland team in the 1982 World Cup finals, said: "I believe Michael was right to speak about this issue because with the way the FIFA rules are it seems unfair to Northern Ireland.

"I would be in favour of the gentleman's agreement suggested by Michael. I've known Martin a long time and he is an intelligent man. I think he may be open to coming to an agreement but I'm not sure the FAI would."

Belfast Telegraph


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