Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill last night insisted the appointment of fellow countryman Brendan Rodgers as the new Liverpool boss proves that if you work hard and are dedicated then age is no barrier when it comes to the top jobs in world football.
At 39, Carnlough-born Rodgers is the youngest manager in the Premier League, but he arrives at Anfield having made Swansea City one of the most attractive sides to watch in England’s top flight.
O’Neill believes Rodgers had to take this opportunity — in case it never arose again — and now expects him to be a success at Anfield.
“It's some opportunity, fantastic and I’m delighted for him,” admitted O’Neill from the Northern Ireland team hotel in Amsterdam.
“You have to take every chance which comes along — especially when you’re a young manager.
“There may be arguments about whether he should have waited, stayed another year at Swansea but when you have the opportunity presented, it is a very tough decision to say ‘no’. I think he was right to take it.
“He’s very capable of doing the job and what he has done in the last two seasons at Swansea has been fantastic.”
It’s been a remarkable rise for Rodgers — especially considering his own professional playing career came to an abrupt end aged only 20.
O’Neill, three years older than Rodgers, has nothing for praise for the manner in which he took the knock-back on the chin and then set about making a career for himself as a coach with Reading, Chelsea, Watford and Swansea.
“When you see someone’s playing career ending at 19 or 20 through injury and then he starts a coaching career starting so early, you can’t say it hasn’t worked for him. The hard work has now paid off and landed him this job.
“Swansea were a joy to watch at times last season, but Brendan will approach the Liverpool job with a level of common sense and recognise expectations will be different. He’ll build a team his way, in a similar mould to what he has done before because it worked, it got results and was a success.”