It's business as usual for Northern Ireland says Michael Smith

Northern Ireland defender Michael Smith
Northern Ireland defender Michael Smith
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Michael Smith insisted Michael O’Neill’s impending departure has had no effect on the mood within the Northern Ireland squad ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Holland and Germany.

O’Neill was announced as Stoke’s new manager last week, earning a 4-2 win over Barnsley in his first game.

But he will remain in charge of the Green and White Army until the end of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, whether that ends in the next seven days or extends into March.

Northern Ireland face Holland in Belfast on Saturday and Germany in Frankfurt on Tuesday in their final Group C fixtures, knowing automatic qualification is highly unlikely but they are currently well placed for the play-offs.

For many in the squad, including Smith, O’Neill is the only international manager they have known as he has led Northern Ireland since 2012, but aside from a short discussion he said it has been business as usual for the team this week.

“We had a brief meeting and he just said ‘Thank you’ and said without the players here he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go and take the job at Stoke,” defender Smith said.

“Then it was basically straight to business with two tough games coming, and we need to win them.”

Smith would dearly love to send O’Neill off in style with a win over Holland tomorrow night.

“He’s had an incredible eight years,” Smith said. “He says probably the one thing missing from his CV here is a really big scalp, so that would be fantastic to send him off from Windsor that way.”