Sunday 18 August 2019

Gerry Taggart backs Michael O'Neill's claims for four-year deal

Gerry Taggart has urged the Irish Football Association to hand manager Michael O'Neill the four-year contract he wants.

Northern Ireland qualified for their first major tournament in 30 years last month by reaching the 2016 European Championship, but O'Neill's long-term future remains unresolved with talks over a new deal still ongoing.

The IFA traditionally hand out two-year deals but O'Neill wants an extra two years to take in the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020 campaigns - and former Northern Ireland defender Taggart believes the manager's wishes should be granted.

"Two years is the way the IFA like it, but it's a rebuilding job when the Euros are over," said the 51-times capped Taggart, who was speaking at the filming of the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show.

"Players like Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley are going to retire and Michael will need four years to rebuild the team.

"And what he's done in getting Northern Ireland to France is worth another two years in itself.

"I don't see how the IFA can not give it to him after the job he has done because he's achieved the ultimate in qualifying for a major tournament.

"If they do not give him what he wants he can walk away and I don't think he would find it too hard finding another job.

"It's something the IFA need to do as quickly as possible, so it's not part of the conversation moving forward and you can focus on the Euros and trying to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia."

Northern Ireland return to action in a home friendly against Latvia on Friday, with a Belfast party planned to mark Euro 2016 qualification.

Kyle Lafferty, scorer of seven goals in Euro 2016 qualifying, will lead the attack despite having failed to start a single game for Norwich this season.

"I'm not sure if Kyle fits into the style of Norwich's high-tempo game," Taggart said.

"But the main thing is that he stays fit and stays hungry for Northern Ireland because if he does, he will cause problems in France.

"I'm sure keeping Kyle fit and hungry will be one of Michael's main aims ahead of the Euros."

Northern Ireland have yet to win a friendly under O'Neill's stewardship, with four draws and six defeats in 10 games since his appointment in December 2011.

So welcoming opponents ranked 99th in the world, 70 places below Northern Ireland, and who finished bottom of their Euro 2016 qualifying group after failing to win a game represents a great opportunity to finally end that unwanted record.

"Our aim against Latvia is to keep the momentum going," said Leeds winger Stuart Dallas.

"We qualified top of the group and anyone who thinks we are just going to the finals to make up the numbers would be silly.

"We believe we can perform well and we will be going to France to make an impact.

"Firstly, though, we will concentrate on getting a good result and performance against Latvia."

:: Watch the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show with Ian Wright, Gerry Taggart, Kevin Gallacher and Iwan Roberts by subscribing to Vauxhall Football on YouTube here -

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