Belfast Telegraph

IFA need past players to shape future: Wright

Tommy Wright believes Northern Ireland will continue to struggle on the international stage unless the Irish FA starts seeking the help of former internationals.

The former Northern Ireland keeper, who won 31 caps, shares the widespread frustration over another qualifying campaign that is fizzling out with a whimper.

Pressure is mounting on manager Nigel Worthington, with Wright’s former playing comrade Michael O’Neill being tipped to succeed the former Norwich City supremo.

With more youngsters pledging allegiance to the Republic of Ireland and a limited pool of players to select from, Wright feels Northern Ireland should be using every trick in the book to compete with the bigger nations.

And that includes picking the brains of players who have donned the Northern Ireland jersey with distinction.

“I think we all need to look at the bigger picture with Northern Ireland and decide how we want to go forward,” said the 48-year-old.

“I know of seven or eight former Northern Ireland players who have done their coaching badges, but none of them are involved with under-age teams at the IFA.

“I don’t think we are tapping into the wealth of experience and knowledge that we have.

“Of course we need more investment and it is difficult because the Premier League now attracts young players from across the world.

“But we still need to move forward with a centre of excellence and I would like to see the IFA consult more former players as they have come through the system and can identify improvements.”

The Lisburn Distillery manager is winning admirers in his own coaching career after guiding unfancied Lisburn Distillery to the Co-operative Insurance Cup last season.

The knockout competition is now called the IRN-BRU League Cup and the Whites begin their defence of the prize with a second round tie at home to Tobermore United tonight.

The Whites’ fairytale story arrived against the backdrop of financial turbulence and Wright knows his team will continue to fight against the odds.

“When you have a team with an average age of 21 sometimes it is difficult to get everything you want, but we have had to cut our cloth like other teams,” added Wright.

“Those young players will not panic, they will learn from mistakes. Our club has been run as a tight ship and we have been on top of the bills we have to pay.

“Since our CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) the club has been run extremely well, though there is acknowledgement that we still need to sell our ground.

“While we do our best to look after ourselves we know other clubs have more funds and stronger squads to select from.

“To win trophies you need to beat the Linfields and Glentorans.

“We have lost a few experienced players from last season and it’s difficult to keep pace with them, but that’s the challenge other teams should relish.”

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