Belfast Telegraph

New stadium, 'but atmosphere will still be the same'

By Steven Beacom

New stadiums are often accused of lacking atmosphere, but that won't be the case with Windsor Park, according to Michael O'Neill. The Northern Ireland manager is confident that the noise levels won't decrease as has been the case at other newly constructed venues around the United Kingdom and beyond.

O'Neill first played at Windsor as a teenager in the '80s and has many happy memories of performing in front of the old standing Kop, but is delighted at the new structure which tonight, against San Marino in a World Cup qualifier, will see the new Kop in operation for first time with 18,500 packed in for the official opening of the stadium.

"It's no longer archaic, which is a positive thing. It's fit for purpose," said O'Neill.

"When we went around Europe we'd see countries with invariably better stadiums than we had. The players would think when where we going to get a stadium of that stature and we have it now.

"It's all bright and shiny and new, but the most important thing is what is the atmosphere going to be like? The atmosphere will be fantastic. I think it will be a very atmospheric stadium.

"It's a credit to the supporters that even in a state of redevelopment it never lost its atmosphere.

"I remember playing against the Faroe Islands with two sides and the atmosphere was brilliant that night.

"The team have created that and the supporters have played a huge part in it, and we want don't want to lose that.

"Every time we play here it has to be an experience for the team and the supporters where they go away saying that was brilliant and they want to come back.

"The team have to continue creating those types of nights," added O'Neill, who believes the razzamatazz surrounding the official opening of the stadium will not affect his side against San Marino.

Belfast Telegraph

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