Former Newcastle striker Michael O’Neill has proved to be one of the most impressive management figures at Euro 2016.
Of all the teams to make the knockout stages, the Northern Ireland boss has managed it with arguably the weakest set of players as individuals – but who he has moulded into a real team. Only Iceland can maybe rival Michael O’Neill and his team in terms of outperforming compared to the basic ability in his squad.
After humble beginnings as a manager at Brechin and Shamrock Rovers, O’Neill has done a stunning job both over in France this summer and in particular a qualifying campaign that saw them comfortably top their group.
Now Steven Davis, Southampton and Northern Ireland midfielder, says that it is inevitable that Michael O’Neill will go on to manage ‘a big club side’, with it only being a matter of time before it happens.
Davis says that it is all about having the opportunity and is certain that there are now clubs looking at O’Neill after the job he has done with his national side.
A low key signing from Coleraine in the summer of 1987, Michael O’Neill was only 18 when he made his Newcastle debut, but that 1987/88 season gets most mentions because of the Paul Gascoigne/Mirandinha link up.
However, it was Michael O’Neill who was the biggest shining light as he hit 12 goals despite only making 19 starts in the First Division that year, making him top scorer ahead of Mirandinha’s 11 goal league total.
Very popular with the fans as a striker/attacking midfielder, injury played its part and then of course the following season saw the club implode and relegation follow, to a back drop of civil war in the boardroom.
Gazza had left, the signings hadn’t worked out and Michael O’Neill was allowed to leave, heading off to Dundee United before a long list of moves including Wigan, Coventry and Glentoran.
Steven Davis taking to The Independent:
“I think for me as a player or a manager everybody needs an opportunity.
“You see our lads playing on this stage here and they are playing lower leagues but they’ve shown they are more than capable of getting to this standard. You need a chance to do that and I think that’s the same for a manager.
“It’s just somebody having the belief in Michael to give him the opportunity and I’m sure he wouldn’t let anyone down.
“There’s going to be people who are looking at him. He has done a hell of job here with us. We’ve had unbelievable progression in the last couple of years. We are unlucky not to be going to the quarter-finals, for me today.
“I’m sure there are a lot of clubs who are thinking he is a suitable candidate for a role.
Obviously we would like to keep him, selfishly. But I’m sure at some point he will go on to manage a big club side.”