EURO 2016: Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill tells fans to ‘keep believing’

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

Michael O’Neill has told Northern Ireland’s supporters to “keep believing”.

The Green and White Army are already eyeing up flights to France next summer.

Four wins from five qualifiers has fans dreaming of reaching a first ever European Championship.

What was a frisson of excitement has now reached fever pitch.

And if Northern Ireland can earn victory against Romania on Saturday night, the Road to France will almost be virtually complete.

Win, lose or draw, O’Neill hopes the fans stick by his players’ side.

“The message is to keep supporting us. The main thing for me is to keep backing the team and keep believing in the team,” said O’Neill.

“There are players in this squad who are experienced but there are also players who are very inexperienced at international level, and to come and play in a team and in a positive atmosphere in the stadium and around the team and the media it makes life an awful lot easier for players.

“Regardless of what happens, we are still in a very strong position and that’s the most important thing.

“The key was to go into the final stages with something still to play for and we will have that regardless of the result.

“The backing of the public has been fantastic and I have no doubt it will increase as the campaign goes on and hopefully results continue to go the way they are going. It is a case of continue to stay with the team.”

Plenty of hype has been attached to Saturday’s game, with many billing it as Northern Ireland’s biggest in 30 years.

O’Neill prefers to take a more grounded approach.

“As regards the hype, to be honest it doesn’t really influence me either way,” he added.

“It hasn’t influenced the preparation of the team. I don’t think the players think about it any particular way.

“It’s not as if it’s a last chance saloon type of game for us.

“The up side to winning far outweighs the downside to losing and that’s a nice position for us to be in.

“I just think this game is a game where we can take a massive stride, but equally, if the result doesn’t go our way we’ll still be second in the group with four games to go, two at home, two away.

“Probably the real crunch in the campaign for us will be the double header in September with the Faroe Islands and Hungary, but this game can put us in a very strong position, no doubt about that.”