Belfast Telegraph

Big opportunities will come to Linfield boss Healy, insists Michael O'Neill


Impressive stuff: Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill is a big fan of what David Healy is doing as Linfield manager
Impressive stuff: Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill is a big fan of what David Healy is doing as Linfield manager

By Steven Beacom

David Healy will be handed the chance to manage across the water if he continues to deliver for Linfield, according to Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill.

Healy's stock has risen with Linfield's remarkable run in Europe, which ended in Azerbaijan on Thursday with Qarabag winning on away goals in the Europa League play-off round.

It is understood some clubs in England and Scotland are taking notice of Healy's heroics at Linfield and while O'Neill believes Northern Ireland's record goalscorer is content at Windsor Park, where he is contracted until 2022, opportunities may come his way in the future.

Last season, Oran Kearney left Coleraine for St Mirren before returning to the Showgrounds in the summer and O'Neill wouldn't be surprised if Healy, who has won every domestic trophy available, followed a similar path.

"You can sense there is a good feeling about Linfield and I have no doubt if David continues on the path he is on opportunities will come his way," said O'Neill, who guided Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League group stages before taking charge of Northern Ireland. "Certainly, the European run will not have done David and his profile any harm.

"He has a great profile as a player anyway. The success he has had domestically as Linfield manager in the Irish League is impressive, though domestic success here hasn't typically translated into people getting jobs.

"Oran was the first to go across on that basis. I know David is in no hurry. He loves his job and has built a fantastic squad. He knows himself he is still developing and learning as a manager so he is in no hurry but he is doing everything right."

Despite Linfield's thrilling adventure in Europe and Crusaders, Ballymena United and Cliftonville all making it through one round in the Europa League, O'Neill still feels a switch should be made to summer football.

Asked if Linfield's run had changed his mind about summer football, O'Neill stated: "No. This shows that we can compete. Even the other teams winning through one round was a positive. I think the results subsequently showed those teams getting quite heavily beaten though at the next stage.

"I genuinely believe that had Linfield been six or eight games into their season they would be every bit as strong if not stronger than they are now. I think summer football still gives our teams the best opportunity to compete in European football."

O'Neill will be hoping none of his 25-man squad for Thursday's friendly at home to Luxembourg and the Euro 2020 qualifier with Germany at Windsor Park on Monday week pick up injuries.

"We had to take another match and what I wanted was a home friendly," said O'Neill. "Our focus is on Germany but the Luxembourg friendly will give us an opportunity to give minutes to players who need them."

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