Sunday 20 May 2018

Healy sets sights on coaching role

David Healy, Northern Ireland
David Healy, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer David Healy is hoping he can continue to contribute to the national side as a coach after announcing his retirement from football.

Healy's status as one of his country's finest ever players is already assured thanks to a tally of 36 goals - 23 more than Billy Gillespie and Colin Clarke, who share second place on the all-time scoring list.

The 34-year-old is also the most-capped outfield player in Northern Ireland's history, with his mark of 95 caps only bettered by goalkeeper Pat Jennings, who managed 119.

Healy's club career never reached the heights of his international achievements - a prolific spell at Preston and a solid stint with Leeds the highlights alongside less successful times at Fulham and Sunderland - but he will long be remembered for his role in some of the most memorable acts of giant killing in recent times.

He scored the winner against Sven-Goran Eriksson's England in 2005, a hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat of Spain the following year and two more in a 2-1 victory against Sweden in 2007.

All in all, he managed a then record of 13 goals in Euro 2008 qualifying but never made it a major tournament after narrowly missing out on that competition.

Healy has been without a club since being released by Bury in the summer but is now targeting a coaching future having already helped out Northern Ireland on a part-time basis this year.

"It has been an absolute honour and privilege to wear the Northern Ireland shirt, to represent the people of our proud wee country and I hope to continue in whatever way I can, in my new career in coaching, to help Northern Ireland succeed," said Healy in a statement.

"Over half my life has been dedicated to the game that I love and although you have to get on by your own efforts and making the best of your own abilities, my career would not have been anything like it has, without the help and support of so many people.

"To the Green and White Army, who have sang my name win or lose, goals or no goals, travelled to countries, some of which I don't think either I or they could even spell, my heartfelt thanks and respect to you all. I will see you in the Kop End!

"There have been some pretty tough days in the Green shirt, let's be honest, but when we got it right and when I had the chance to play my part, those are the days that will stay in my memory forever."

Current Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill would dearly love to have the David Healy of five years ago at his disposal, but was only able to use the fan favourite sparingly due to his lack of regular football.

Healy did score one goal for O'Neill, his 36th and final international strike earning a stoppage-time draw against Azerbaijan last November.

O'Neill hailed Healy's contribution over the years and welcomed his future help from the sidelines.

"David Healy has and will always be an iconic player in the eyes of all Northern Ireland fans," he said.

"His commitment to playing for Northern Ireland is an example to all current and future international players.

"I know that David will have a lot to offer the game as he embarks on his coaching career.

"David has already performed a scouting role for the senior international team and assisted the U17 team as part of his development as a coach. I would like to thank David for his contribution to football in Northern Ireland and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Northern Ireland's Sports Minister Caral Ní Chuilín paid tribute to Healy in an official statement.

It read: "David Healy is an inspirational figure, his exploits on the field will be remembered by fans both locally and across the globe. His wonder strike to beat England at Windsor Park and his hat-trick against Spain live long in the memory.

"Having played at all levels of the game, he built a career which took him to the pinnacle of his sport. He was able to compete with, and often beat, the best footballers in the world." The Irish Football Association has also confirmed it will mark Healy's career at the next competitive match staged at Windsor Park.

Press Association

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