Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill 'is as big an influence on the players as ever'

By Steven Beacom

The Michael O'Neill effect on Northern Ireland remains as telling as ever, says goalkeeper Michael McGovern. O'Neill was appointed as manager of the international team at the end of 2011 and took charge of his first game a few months later.

Still in situ, after inspiring Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, O'Neill is now one of the longest serving bosses in world football.

There is no danger, however, of the 47-year-old going stale in his current post.

He remains the consummate professional and leaves no stone unturned in his quest to lead Northern Ireland to further glory.

"Michael O'Neill has done a fantastic job with Northern Ireland," said McGovern.

"He came in at a difficult time when confidence was low but gradually he built up the team and what he has achieved in the past couple of years has been amazing.

"He has great attention to detail and any of the boys will tell you that he has us well prepared for every game we play in terms of ourselves and the opposition.

"I know some people are maybe a little surprised that a big club job hasn't come his way but as far as we are concerned we are delighted he is still the manager because he is so good for us.

"Managers can come and go pretty quickly in football these days but it's brilliant Michael is still in charge of Northern Ireland and he is as influential and important to us as ever.

"He has been very helpful for me, selecting me midway through the last Euro campaign and then keeping faith in me and playing me in the finals in France.

"Hopefully I have repaid some of that faith with my performances."

McGovern, a modest and genuine character by nature, may be O'Neill's No.1 but he refuses to take his place in the side for granted with St Johnstone's Alan Mannus and Linfield's Roy Carroll also in the squad for Sunday's World Cup qualifier at home to Norway.

"Alan and Roy are quality goalkeepers and have proved how good they are at club and international level so I know that I have to keep performing at a high standard," said McGovern.

"We get on very well which is good and the training with Maik Taylor (goalkeeping coach) is enjoyable. It's good to have that competition.

"There is a great spirit amongst the whole squad. That helps off the pitch and on it because there is a togetherness when we play."



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