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Robinson: O'Neill's Northern Ireland can help drive our boys to greatness


Northern Ireland Victory Shield manager Stephen Robinson

Northern Ireland Victory Shield manager Stephen Robinson

Northern Ireland Victory Shield manager Stephen Robinson

Northern Ireland youth coach Stephen Robinson believes his Victory Shield squad will be inspired by the efforts of Michael O'Neill's senior squad.

Northern Ireland currently top their Euro 2016 qualifying group with three wins from three games.

Robinson said: “They can't failed to be inspired by it. I think the recent success has given everybody involved with Northern Irish football a huge lift, never mind the lads in the youth set-up.

“Unlike in other countries, there is a direct relationship between the youth teams and the senior staff. Myself and Jim Magilton both work with the senior squad, while manager Michael O'Neill knows all of the lads by their first names. I don't think many other international managers take the time to do that.

“Everybody is feeling good at the moment and it's important we harness that.”

Northern Ireland start their Victory Shield campaign live on Sky Sports this Friday (7pm) when they face holders Scotland at St. Mirren Park.

Manager Robinson is expecting a tough task: “Scotland are champions for a reason. The SFA have invested a lot of money in youth football and soccer schemes, and they're starting to reap the benefit of it. They've an advantage in the sense that their boys are all with professional clubs who train five days a week, while our boys are still playing boys' football.

“This tournament can help them make that leap. They will be well scouted and we will make sure they are well prepared. This competition is good preparation for the Under-17 European Championships, which is the pinnacle of youth football at this level.”

Northern Ireland then play England at Stangmore Park in Dungannon the following Friday night, before facing Wales at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Thursday, November 20.

Former Northern Ireland international Robinson believes that the Victory Shield still provides a good platform for budding international footballers.

“Things are a little different this year because we've (Irish FA) taken over the coaching of the side from the Schools FA, although they still look after a lot of the admin. I think it's a good opportunity for us to help bridge the gap between playing boys' football and playing Under-17 international football.

“There's no doubt this is a big jump in standard for the boys. They'll be exposed to live television coverage for the first time and they will be playing against lads who are at big clubs on the mainland.

“All of these boys are now part of our Club NI project, which means we get to work with them three times a week. It's all part of helping them adjust to this level of football.”

Connor Larkin, Armagh
Matty Davidson, Linfield

Cormac Lawlor, Cliftonville
Conal Fagan, Oxford
Jack White, Glentoran
Lucas Gallashan, Glentoran
Liam McKenna, Plunkett
Chris Crane, Linfield

Chris Gallagher, Linfield
Matt Lynch, Glenavon
Dylan Davidson, Cliftonville
Stephen Mallon, Plunkett
Tre Stirling, Glentoran

Niall Cassidy, Armagh
Jack Sharvin, Linfield
Alex Carolan, Maiden City
Dave Parkhouse, Maiden City
Reece McGinley, Liverpool

Belfast Telegraph