Michael McGovern and Michael O'Neill will find top clubs, says Jimmy Nicholl

Michael McGovern (centre) is left disappointed as Northern Ireland exit Euro 2016
Michael McGovern (centre) is contemplating his club future

Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern and manager Michael O'Neill will soon find themselves high-profile clubs, Jimmy Nicholl says.

Nicholl was assistant to O'Neill as the national side, with McGovern in fine form, reached the last 16 at Euro 2016.

While O'Neill signed a new four-year deal in March, McGovern is out of contract with Hamilton Academical.

"The big job for Michael - I think it will happen. He is very clever," said Nicholl of 46-year-old O'Neill.

"Not that we've spoken about it. He's very quiet. He keeps his cards close to his chest.

"He's a shrewdy. Put it this way - it won't faze him.

"I think he deserves it - at least a Championship club down in England - the way he goes about his job."

Should O'Neill move on, Nicholl agreed that former team-mate Tommy Wright would be in the running to succeed the former Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers boss after regular top-six finishes with St Johnstone.

"He hasn't done himself any harm, Tommy, over the last few years," the former Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath manager told BBC Radio Scotland's Off The Ball. "He is a great candidate, so he would be."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has been linked with club jobs in recent months

McGovern has spent his whole career in Scotland, having started as a youth with Celtic before spells with Dundee United, Ross County and Falkirk, going on to join Accies in 2014.

The 31-year-old has been offered a new contract by the Scottish Premiership club but is considering other options.

"I watched Michael seven or eight times last year and I saw Hamilton got beaten three or four-nil, but he stopped them getting beaten by seven or eight," Nicholl told BBC Scotland.

"Michael got his opportunity against Scotland at Hampden. Big Roy Carroll was injured at the time, he got his chance and he took it."

Unite the communities

Nicholl thinks that McGovern's story typifies the way O'Neill has built his national team's success.

"They went on a South American tour to Chile two years ago and people were phoning up and saying, 'I can't go, I've got a wedding to go to or I've got a hamstring problem,'" the former Manchester United and Rangers full-back said.

"See the ones that went on that tour, they've stayed in the team. Michael said he was going to build round Steve Davis and all those who showed up.

"There were players who didn't show up and haven't been seen again."

Nicholl believes the success of the Northern Ireland team has helped unite the communities in his homeland.

"This Catholic-Protestant thing - they are still talking in Northern Ireland about what Michael has done," he said.

"We had 15,000 people in the fan zone when we came back on Monday night, all mixed. He has brought the place together."

Stephen Robinson and Jimmy Nicholl discuss tactics with Michael O'Neill
Jimmy Nicholl (centre) praised Michael O'Neill for his management of their country

Nicholl also believes that their progress at the finals will help the national team develop and retain talent.

"We have lost players to the Republic of Ireland," he points out. "Why? Because the Republic of Ireland were qualifying for everything and Northern Ireland weren't.

"That's not the case now. That's all the national manager should be interested in - making sure the country is qualifying for tournaments and that'll bring on young players."

Northern Ireland were knocked out in the last 16 when they lost 1-0 to Wales, who have since progressed to the semi-finals after beating Belgium 3-1.

"It was a magnificent experience and I had a magnificent time," Nicholl said.

"When we went out against Wales, we were really down.

"Although it was a great experience, you think: Imagine going out the way we did.

"And then, when you look at what Wales did to Belgium, all of a sudden it does not look too bad.

"Maybe we will have gone out to the winners. Who knows? So it picks you up."

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