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Stuart Dallas: New Northern Ireland boss has a great opportunity thanks to Michael O'Neill's foundations

 

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Stuart Dallas

Stuart Dallas

�INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Dependable asset: Stuart Dallas won all but one of his NI caps under Michael O'Neill

Dependable asset: Stuart Dallas won all but one of his NI caps under Michael O'Neill

�INPHO/Presseye/William Cherry

Stuart Dallas

Stuart Dallas does not expect many changes to the Northern Ireland set-up and style of play when the Irish FA appoints a new manager later this year.

 

With Northern Ireland just two wins away from qualifying for the European Championship finals for the second time in succession, Leeds United star Dallas is keen to see who will replace Michael O'Neill, outlining his faith that the IFA will make the right choice.

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, St Johnstone's Tommy Wright and Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough are on the shortlist - all three have worked under O'Neill at different times with the senior squad.

Former Crusaders ace Dallas will be a key figure for O'Neill's successor. Now one of the first names on the Northern Ireland team sheet and with his versatility and consistency, he has become the man for all seasons - and positions; playing four different roles in one Euro 2020 qualifier last year!

The 29-year-old says: " I have worked with Robbo (Robinson) and Barra (Baraclough) before and both of them know all the players having been involved with the side.

"I haven't worked with Tommy though he did try and sign me when he was Distillery manager many years ago!

"I am sure whoever comes in won't change too much because of the group that is there and the way we know how to play.

"It will be interesting to see who the IFA bring in from our point of view as players though, for me, in terms of giving 100%, the manager doesn't matter.

"You are playing for your country and in a privileged position and it shouldn't matter who the manager is but certainly it has to be the right decision from the IFA and I am sure they will make that.

"For us being in the play-offs, we have to look at it when the new man comes in that we are two games away from the Euro finals.

"Michael did a lot of work with players he brought through. He didn't just pick them up off the street. There was a lot of work that went into it with him and the team around searching for players. He has laid good foundations and we are in a good place and hopefully that continues going forward."

On O'Neill, who will now focus solely on his job as Stoke City boss rather than lead Northern Ireland in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Bosnia & Herzegovina scheduled for October, Dallas said: "The biggest thing is to thank him. He did a lot for me and I owe him a lot. He showed faith in me and threw me at the deep end into the international set up and I haven't looked back since then.

"Both on and off the pitch, he has been really good. Managers now are good coaches and not so good at man management or vice versa but Michael has both of those qualities. He always thinks what is best for the player. I knew from when I started working with him that I was going to enjoy it and he proved me right."

Dallas, who won 43 out of his 44 caps to date under O'Neill, adds: "I am disappointed he has left and would have loved for him to stay on and I think all the boys would feel the same way because everybody liked him.

"We knew, though, as time went on it was going to be difficult for him to stay especially with this pandemic meaning the play-off games kept being put back.

"I wish him well with Stoke though obviously not against us (Leeds) because we still have to play them this season in the Championship.

"Michael brought everybody together with Northern Ireland. That shows the type of person Michael is as well as the football manager he is. When you look back, he didn't have a great start to his Northern Ireland career with results going against him but players kept believing in what he was doing.

"Years ago, players were pulling out left, right and centre and making it hard for our international managers to get a team. Michael built the squad where everyone turns up barring injury, even in friendlies. Off the pitch, Michael got it right with the players when it was time to relax and when it was time to work. Players appreciate that.

"He has also done a lot for the Association, not just the team. The foundations he has laid for whoever comes in are massive. Somebody coming in now has an incredible chance to take us to another European Championships."

Belfast Telegraph