My players will take pride in NI shirt: Shiels
Some say pride comes before a fall. Not for Kenny Shiels where the Northern Ireland women's football team is concerned.
Announcing his first squad since being appointed manager in May, Shiels made it clear yesterday that he wanted the best female players from Northern Ireland to feel immensely proud when representing their country at senior international level.
He is keen for them to appreciate it is the pinnacle and wants them to rise to the challenge. Former Kilmarnock, Derry City, Coleraine and Ballymena United boss Shiels added that he is relishing what lies ahead in the Uefa Women's Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.
First up is a home group game on August 30 at Seaview against Norway, who reached the quarter-finals of this year's Women's World Cup. Four days later, Shiels' side will take on Wales in Newport.
Shiels has a blend of youth and experience in his 20-strong panel but there is no place for Billie Simpson, who earlier this week made headlines after her spectacular strike from inside her own half for Cliftonville Ladies was nominated for the World Goal of the Year Puskas Award. Linfield's Caitlin McGuinness is another notable absentee.
It is understood the pair weren't named in the squad because they failed to attend a summer camp. Shiels did not mention either player directly but made it clear that he desired total commitment. "There were some things taken out of my control with injuries and then we had two very good players who wanted to play, but they just want to come and not be a part of our training programme," said the manager.
"Everyone must be in the training programme in the months we have them. Two of our best players are not attending, so will be eliminated from the squad. That's the only negative I really have.
"I've told the players from the outset that I need them to be proud to represent their country. They should be so proud of that. This is the A team in their sport.
"There are so many girls in Northern Ireland who would love to be in that position. If we can get that cemented into the players' thoughts, then we can be more successful. There has to be preparation in everything you do. We have good players who have worked hard and we can't just go on talent alone, we have to go on work ethic as well. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard and that's very, very true."
On a personal note, Shiels pointed out: "I need a game to challenge myself and the Norway game gives me a challenge to try and get in and work with the team and do what I think I'm good at, which is coaching players and managing players.
"To do it for my country at the highest level in the sport makes me feel really good."
NI SQUAD: Goalkeepers: Jackie Burns (Unattached), Emma Higgins (Glentoran Women); Defenders: Rachel Newborough (Charlton Ladies), Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers), Ashley Hutton (Linfield Ladies), Claragh Connor (Sion Swifts Ladies), Natalie Johnston (Leicester City Women), Freya Holdaway (Crystal Palace Women), Yasmin White (Glentoran Women); Midfielders: Sarah McFadden (Durham Women), Kerry Montgomery (Motherwell Ladies), Demi Vance (Glentoran Women), Chloe McCarron (Linfield Ladies), Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Ladies), Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville Ladies), Megan Bell (Durham Women), Rachel Furness (Reading Women); Forwards: Simone Magill (Everton Ladies), Lauren Wade (Throttur Reykjavik), Rebecca McKenna (Linfield Ladies).
• In the Danske Bank Premiership, Glenavon have signed winger Kyle Beggs (22) from Ballyclare Comrades.