Northern Ireland record goalscorer David Healy blasts "structural failings" at Irish Football Association after UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying defeat to Kazakhstan
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Maksim Samorodov’s first-half strike condemned Northern Ireland to yet another loss in a campaign to forget with the Green and White Army sitting in fifth place on three points from six games and without hope of qualifying for next summer’s tournament.
Kazakhstan sit 40 places below Northern Ireland in the FIFA rankings, occupying 104th spot, and Healy – who was an analyst on Viaplay’s coverage – criticised the association for their shortcomings.
"The story of the group is that we are just not good enough at the minute,” he said. “You can talk about the good players we’ve had and the history, but we just don’t have the level of players to go and compete.
"Kazakhstan are 104th in the world and we’re not scoring against them across two games and losing both – you have to break it down and find the reason why.
"Michael has came back into the hotseat now and rightly so as he was the right man for it, but the structural failings over the last number of years by the people at the IFA, having not put the money in place, having not built the training ground they promised players and supporters, having not invested in the youth system and players.
"They say they will and say they have, but the JD Academy I think is being funded by UEFA.
"I feel for someone like Ian Baraclough, who was basically a sitting duck as a manager previously and what we don’t want is to be sitting here thinking in three or four years time that we haven’t given Michael the tools to go and qualify for a major tournament.”
Healy was also critical of the IFA when it came to the subject of developing young players within Northern Ireland.
"I see enough people out and around the country and I see jobs for people in the IFA, but what do they actually contribute?” he added. “Supporters in Northern Ireland want to see a team we can be proud of on the pitch, but we aren’t seeing that at the minute.
"The players are trying there’s no doubt about it, but we’re lacking quality and you have to break it down and say how and why? Where do we get the quality from?
"If we had our own training ground, which we should have done and were promised, maybe it helps.
"We’ve had young players go to Premier League clubs over the last few years. I went to watch the U21s against Luxembourg and we had three of our so-called star pupils from the JD Academy, all 18 or 19, on the bench.
"Our three best young players at the minute – Isaac Price, Shea Charles and Daniel Ballard – they haven’t came through our system.
"They are playing through the eligibility rule which should be a worry.
"Michael knows my thoughts on this and he will get to the bottom of it I have no doubt, but people need to get their backside into gear, stop patting each other on the back and talking about how good this and that is because that’s a reflection on the team.
"It wasn’t Ian Baraclough’s fault. Michael has the same shortcomings at the minute.”
Fellow studio analyst and former international teammate Keith Gillespie was in full agreement with Healy’s comments.
"Absolutely (I agree),” he said. “Other countries have progressed over the years and we have stood still.
"David has hit the nail on the head.
"We qualified for the Euros and you think things are going to be done and they are promised to be done – to not have our own training facility as a country is shocking really.”