Paul Gascoigne was a no-brainer when Michael O’Neil was asked to pick the best ever 11 he had played with.
Arriving at Newcastle as an 18 year old for a pittance from Coleraine, O’Neill was a surprise success in the 1987/88 season.
The Northern Irish young winger/striker scored 13 goals in only 22 games playing alongside Paul Gascoigne, outscoring Mirandinha.
United finished 8th in the top division that season but Gazza left that summer and everything fell apart for both Michael O’Neill and Newcastle United.
Bad signings led to chaos and relegation, whilst injuries and the state of the club led to a poor second season for O’Neill, who left for Dundee United after United dropped into the second tier.
As well as starring for Northern Ireland, Michael O’Neill played for a host of clubs including Coventry City, Wigan and Hibernian.
After leading Northern Ireland to Euros glory and qualification, Michael O’Neill is now a much talked about manager and one who is tipped to move into club management after this summer’s tournament in France.
Appearing on Sky Sports’ Fantasy Football Club, O’Neill has picked two other former Newcastle players as well as Gazza in his top 11 that he played with, though neither Keith Gillespie or Duncan Ferguson were at St James Park at the same time as O’Neill.
Here is the Michael O’Neill best ever 11 and then his write up on the three former Newcastle players:
RIGHT WING – Keith Gillespie
Keith came into the team very young and made an immediate impact. What I liked about him was that he was always there for Northern Ireland. He played 86 times and he was always a handful. When he came in, he was pace, pace and more pace but his game developed. He was a fantastic player for Northern Ireland.
CENTRE MIDFIELD – Paul Gascoigne
There was no way he would have just played on the right side, he would have been all over the pitch. I only played with Gazza for a season at Newcastle but it was a fantastic experience. In many ways, I feel I saw the best of him because it was all about the football. The rest is history because we all know what a good player he was.
STRIKER – Duncan Ferguson
There will be plenty of crosses into the box from this team so who better to have on the end of them than Duncan Ferguson? Duncan came into the Dundee United team very young and he was unplayable. He was phenomenal and a great finisher on his left-hand side. He was a very gifted left-sided player and a lot of people probably didn’t realise that. However, in terms of the ball going into the box, he made sure he was going to win it.