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Northern Ireland fans deserve better from Uefa: Michael O'Neill


Let’s do this: Michael O’Neill’s side have a fighting chance of making it to the Euro 2016 finals

Let’s do this: Michael O’Neill’s side have a fighting chance of making it to the Euro 2016 finals

©William Cherry / Presseye

Let’s do this: Michael O’Neill’s side have a fighting chance of making it to the Euro 2016 finals

Michael O'Neill says he shares the frustration of the Northern Ireland fans who are enduring a long wait for news on whether the Euro 2016 qualifier in Romania will be played behind closed doors.

Uefa were expected to make an announcement last Friday before pushing it back to Monday and now tomorrow - only two weeks before the Group F showdown in Bucharest.

The disciplinary hearing relates to crowd problems during Romania's 1-1 draw against Hungary on October 11 and a full or partial closure of the Arena Nationala is a possible punishment.

Up to 800 Northern Ireland fans are hoping to travel to Romania but Uefa's procrastination has left them fuming.

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill admits it's an unacceptable scenario and he shares the supporters' concerns.

"It's very unfair on the supporters having to wait this length of time to find out whether they are allowed access to the ground or not," said O'Neill.

"These decisions should be made much earlier in light of the organisation and planning that goes into attending these matches.

"Romania is not the most accessible location in terms of travelling from Northern Ireland and Uefa do need to look at the timing of these decisions and take into account the negative impact this is having on our supporters.

"I can understand the frustration of the fans. We've had great backing from the supporters on the road in this campaign and the previous one and we hope that continues.

"We have faced difficult trips to countries such as Portugal, Israel and Luxembourg and the supporters have faced difficult journeys too which require a lot of planning and financial commitment.

"We do not want the game to be played behind closed doors. I'm sure Romania would also feel they would not like to be faced with that scenario but our fans can contribute to a great atmosphere and the players will respond to that."

Romania have named Anghel Iordanescu as their coach for a third time.

The 64-year-old first coached Romania from 1993 to 1998, leading them to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup, and then from 2002 to 2004.

His one-year contract sees him succeed Victor Piturca who left to take over Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.

But Iordanescu hasn't coached since leaving United Arab Emirates side Al Ain in 2006 and O'Neill is surprised Romania have rolled back the clock.

"It's an interesting move on their part given the fact he has not coached for a number of years," added O'Neill. "It's obviously something which leaves us a bit in the dark as our homework on the team has been based on their former manager."

Derby County winger Jamie Ward is O'Neill's biggest injury concern ahead of the Romania battle after he suffered a thigh strain in a match against Reading but the former Shamrock Rovers boss remains upbeat the 28-year-old will be available.

He said: "There's still a few weeks to the game so injuries, particularly the muscle one Jamie has, can recover. I'm not ruling anyone out, including Jamie."

O'Neill's staff are also waiting on news of Jonny Evans' ankle injury with the Manchester United defender keen to return to club duty this weekend.

"It's a wait and see situation with Jonny," added O'Neill. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed as many players as possible will be available to me."

O'Neill will name his squad for the Romania game on Tuesday morning.

Belfast Telegraph