Former goalkeeper Tommy Wright has backed Michael O’Neill to succeed as manager of Northern Ireland.
O’Neill is on the verge of signing a new two-year deal with the Irish Football Association.
It comes despite managing just one victory from 14 games at the helm since succeeding Nigel Worthington in December, 2011.
The Irish FA’s efforts to prolong the 44-year-old’s reign have come under question from some disgruntled fans, but former goalkeeper Wright – who was part of O’Neill’s backroom team before becoming manager of St Johnstone – insists the Association deserves credit for their pro-active stance.
“Michael is still the best man for the job,” said Wright.
“I talk to him quite regularly and I know he has always been keen to stay.
“I know the qualities Michael brings to the job and the work he puts in behind the scenes. He is the right man to take us into the next Euro campaign.”
Wright – who won 31 caps for Northern Ireland in the late-80s and 1990s – insists O’Neill has the full backing of his senior players as they look ahead to a new Euro qualifying campaign.
“Michael put in a lot of miles speaking to players individually after he was initially appointed,” he said.
“From the first team meeting, it was clear he had their respect and, by his actions, he has continued to earn that respect.
“Look at the friendlies. There haven’t been too many cry-offs. It would also appear the older, senior players are keen to stay involved for the next Euro campaign.
“That is a measure of how Michael is doing. I know the players enjoy working with him and appreciate how meticulous he is in his preparation and what he has brought to the post.”
Irish FA president Jim Shaw yesterday said the Association were “getting closer” to finalising a new contract with O’Neill.
It is hoped the two-year extension can be signed before next week’s friendly against Turkey.
“Nothing has been finalised or agreed as yet, but we are getting close,” said Shaw.
“There are still a few things to be sorted before any announcement can be made. Patrick Nelson (IFA chief executive) is talking with Michael this week and we will take things from there.
“I wouldn’t commit to any timescale, but hopefully things can be completed as soon as possible.”
O’Neill will be in Belfast on Tuesday afternoon when he names his squad for the friendly in Turkey on November 15.