New NI boss Michael O'Neill 'will tackle' eligibility issue

Michael O'Neill
Tommy Wright says that Michael O'Neill is an extremely astute manager

Tommy Wright believes new Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill will tackle "head on" the issue of players switching to the Republic of Ireland.

Former Northern Ireland keeper Wright, a close of friend of O'Neill, believes the new manager will use his "personal skills" to convince players to stay with the country of their birth.

"He might have to do that with Northern Ireland," added Wright.

"I'm not surprised he's interviewed well and impressed the Irish FA."

Wright, who is now assistant boss at Scottish outfit St Johnstone, saw O'Neill's management skills at close hand when he worked as a goalkeeping coach at Shamrock Rovers during the new Northern Ireland boss's spell in charge of the League of Ireland club.

"He'll be encouraging young players if they are eligible to play for Northern Ireland, to continue to play for them.

"His playing resources are limited but that could be said of any international management of a small country.

"He'll work extremely hard to make sure that anyone that qualifies and are good enough that they feel involved even when they are not in squads.

"Also some of the players who have gone to play for the Republic haven't been capped yet (by the Republic) so the door can still be opened to them.

"Michael will work hard to get as many people as possible available for selection."

Northern Ireland-born players who have switched to the Republic but have not yet been capped in competitive internationals include Stoke's Marc Wilson and Preston's Daniel Devine.

Wright also believes that O'Neill may look at recalling players who dropped out of favour during Nigel Worthington's reign.

"There are a lot of players that I would have said have been overlooked and the door could have shut too early for one or two of them," added Wright.

Those possibly in this category include the likes of Dean Shiels and Ivan Sproule.

Wright believes that O'Neill's achievement in guiding Shamrock Rovers to the group stages of the Europa League showed his ability to work with limited resources.

"He sets up his teams very well. He's very knowledgeable and he'll leave no stone unturned in terms of detail on the opposition."

Wright is being linked as a candidate to take a backroom role with O'Neill but the former international goalkeeper was reluctant to comment on the speculation.

"If I am linked with any possible job, I'll be extremely honoured and delighted. It's not something we've discussed at length."

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