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Stephen Robinson is my tip for next Northern Ireland boss

Gerry Armstrong


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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson

I'll put my cards on the table by stating Stephen Robinson should be the new Northern Ireland boss.

Make no mistake about it, whoever gets the post will have big boots to fill.

Michael O'Neill did a great job. What he achieved over the past five years was amazing.

It was a fantastic achievement to get to the Euros four years ago - and the team are on the brink of repeating it.

So, no pressure then on the new boss with a crucial Euro play-off semi-final against Bosnia-Herzegovina on the horizon.

Robbo, for me, is the big favourite. He ticks all the right boxes. He's a former player and he's done a tremendous job at Motherwell.

Another thing in his favour is the fact he was involved with the squad under Michael during the 2016 European Championship campaign in France - so there is a lot of continuity there.

He is the big standout candidate for me.

But he will be pushed all the way by Ian Baraclough.

The 49-year-old has done a superb job with the Under-21 side, plotting eye-catching wins against Spain and Iceland. Ian has also worked closely with Michael and has helped bring through a young crop of players.

In my opinion, the thing that goes against him - and it's a big obstacle - is the fact that he has never pulled on the green shirt of Northern Ireland.

That's where Robbo comes out top.

He played for his country and the fans recognise that. I was involved when he was introduced to the international set-up. I brought him in for an Under-21 game against Portugal at Mourneview Park.

The senior team boss, Bryan Hamilton, wanted to have a look at him. I told him I'd watched him twice and he was good enough to be in the senior squad.

Robbo was at Bournemouth at the time. Once Bryan saw him, he liked him and included him in the squad.

He played with 100 per cent commitment and determination - he just loved playing for his country.

I think he would be the same as a manager.

Those are the two favourites, but Jim Magilton could also come into the reckoning.

Again, he has worked with Michael and has done a lot of coaching with the IFA. Jim is another one who took great pride in wearing the jersey.

Perhaps he isn't favoured as much as Robbo, but Jim would have the credentials, there is no question about that.

Tommy Wright is another name being linked with the post. He has done a brilliant job at St Johnstone and he has the experience.

As a player, Tommy was a great servant for his country. I don't mind admitting I was also involved in the early part of his career.

Having watched him in a training session at Stranmillis for wee Billy Bingham, we recommended him to Iam McFaul at Newcastle. The rest is all history, as they say. He certainly would have a chance for the job.

Austin MacPhee was part of Michael's backroom staff for six years, having played a key role in the Euro 2016 glory days. The reality is, though, he wouldn't have the experience to manage at international level.

I would have my doubts about whether he would command the respect of the players as well.

I'm surprised Jimmy Nicholl hasn't tossed his hat into the ring.

Perhaps he is happy being a number two these days. He certainly would have the credentials and experience.

And there are other names being bandied about like Grant McCann, Warren Feeney and David Healy, but I honestly think they are non-starters, while Stephen Craigan has great coaching ability.

He certainly would merit consideration, as would Kevin Horlock.

I think these are the lads that will come through in the future.

Belfast Telegraph