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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Dowie, Keegan, Magilton or Sanchez: Who will be the new Northern Ireland manager?

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After a dismal qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington did the honourable thing and resigned. Now the search is on for a new manager and there has been no shortage of experienced names throwing their hats into the ring.

Former England boss Kevin Keegan is reportedly the latest big name linked with the prestigious role at Windsor Park, but would he be the right man for the job?

Here are the main runners and riders for the vacant post.

Jim Magilton

It would be an absolute honour for the former Northern Ireland and Ipswich midfielder to manage his country. Magilton, 42, pulled on the famous green shirt 52 times, scoring five in the process, and he would jump at the chance to try his hand on the international stage. He spent three years in the dugout at Portman Road, but just couldn’t find the consistency needed in the Championship to make the play-off places. Magilton was axed in 2009. The fiery Irishman was also suspended from QPR after allegedly headbutting one of his own players. Magilton was linked with the national job in 2007 but reportedly refused due to a lack of experience. Currently an assistant to Michael O’Neill at Shamrock Rovers, Magilton would not turn down this opportunity now.

Iain Dowie

Although born in Hatfield, England, Dowie qualified to play for Northern Ireland through his father. Dowie won 59 caps for Northern Ireland, scoring 12 times, in a career that spanned a decade. As a manager at Crystal Palace, Dowie could do no wrong. He lifted them from the foot of the Championship up to the promised land of the Premier League. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to keep the Eagles flying high and were relegated that season. Controversially Dowie landed the Charlton job but was unable to win over the fans and was axed after just 15 games in charge. Since then he’s had spells at Coventry City, QPR, Newcastle United and Hull City, all ending in failure. Always fully committed, Dowie would give the job his all, but would it be good enough?

Michael O’Neill

The Shamrock Rovers boss and former Newcastle United midfielder is making a bit of a name for himself in the Irish league. In his first season at the Hoops he led them to second place and he went one better last season by winning the league for the time in 16 years. He followed this up by clinching the Setanta Cup and then becoming the first manager of a League of Ireland side to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League. They recently played Premier League giants Spurs and stunned the home side by taking the lead, only for Redknapp’s men to take control. However, they didn’t disgrace themselves one bit. O’Neill started his managerial career at Scottish outfit Brechin and won two manager of the month awards. He’s only 42 but he has a bright future in the game.

Kevin Keegan

If there’s one thing the former Newcastle United and England boss will bring to Northern Ireland it is optimism. There is nobody better than Kevin Keegan of motivating players to bust a gut for the cause. He will always be remembered for his attacking philosophy at St James’ Park during the 90s and if he could get Northern Ireland playing that way then the country would be right behind him. Defence has always been his Achilles’ heel, but if it is entertainment you’re after, Keegan’s your man. Keegan is vastly experienced and has reportedly expressed an interest into the vacant role. I think Northern Ireland could do a lot worse than appointing Keegan.

Lawrie Sanchez

Sanchez achieved some great results for Northern Ireland during his three-year spell as manager, beating the likes of England, Sweden and Spain and holding Ronadlo’s Portugal. However, the lure of managing in the Premier League proved too much for Sanchez. Fulham offered him a contract in 2007 after saving the club from the drop, but it turned out to be a really bad career move. Before the year was out, Sanchez had left Fulham in the relegation zone. Currently managing League Two side Barnet, Sanchez would relish a return to the hot seat, but would you have him back?

Martin O’Neill

Arguably the most successful manager Northern Ireland has produced, O’Neill must surely be at the top of everyone’s list. However, would the former Aston Villa and Celtic boss want to manage an international side at this stage of his career? O’Neill is an ambitious manager and there are so many goals he has failed to achieve yet in the Premier League. He believes he has what it takes to be successful in the Premier League and has the patience to wait for a club that can meet his aims to arrive. He would undoubtedly be a success with Northern Ireland and will take on the challenge one day, but I don’t think this is the right time for him.

Other names in the frame include Brian Laws, Brian Kerr, Jean Tigana, Phillippe Trousier, Jimmy Nicholl, John Pemberton, Kevin Blackwell, Paul Ince, Paul Tisdale, Phil Brown, Sean O’Driscoll, Steve Morrow and Kenny Shiels, among many others.

Personally I think Keegan would be a huge hit in the job. Yeah, I’m sure he’d walk out sooner or later but he would bring so much hope and confidence to the team that it could only be a success. Failing that, bring back Sanchez. He knows the job inside out, has a proved he can handle the pressure of international football and give the country some magical nights.

But it doesn’t really matter what I think. Who do you want to see lead the national side to glory? Whatever your view we’d love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth



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