6th December 2018
Michael O’Neill: International football and managing the media
By Rebecca Hawksworth
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill spoke of the differences between club and international management during a recent Executive Guest Speaker appearance at UCFB Etihad Campus.
O’Neill began his managerial career with Scottish side Brechin City before moving back to Ireland and enjoying a two-year stint with Shamrock Rovers. Having then moved in to international management in 2011, O’Neill spoke to students about some of the key tests he faced when taking charge of Northern Ireland’s national side.
He said: “It was a case of handling the players slightly differently. The man-management of international players is different from the man-management of club players because ultimately international football is a choice for a player whereas players are contracted to a club.”
O’Neill added: “I think your man-management skills are really tested at international level and it’s a really important part of the job. Keeping 25 players happy over a nine-day period stuck in a hotel is a big challenge.”
O’Neill, a midfielder who represented several Scottish and English clubs during his 20-year playing career, including Newcastle United and Hibernian, has been in charge of Northern Ireland for seven years, and like any manager has undergone his fair share of scrutiny. However, steering Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 – the country’s first tournament appearance in 30 years – has granted him near hero status in and around Belfast.
For managers of any side, whether club or country, media coverage around the sport is constant, with team selections and playing styles analysed more than ever before.
O’Neill went on to tell students how to deal with the watchful eyes of the media as a manager. He said: “I think you have to know how to manage the media very cleverly. The media attention around football and football managers is greater than it’s ever been. You’re going to read a lot of things about yourself that are as negative as they are positive so don’t get too carried away with the positives, and equally don’t get too despondent with the negatives. Keep your focus and believe in the job that you’re doing.”