Saturday 24 August 2019

St Johnstone midfielder Paul Paton can see why Michael O'Neill is in demand

St Johnstone's Paul Paton, right, is not surprised by interest in his club and country bosses
St Johnstone's Paul Paton, right, is not surprised by interest in his club and country bosses

St Johnstone and Northern Ireland midfielder Paul Paton can see why both his bosses are subject to speculation about their respective futures.

Paton's national team manager Michael O'Neill is the Scottish Football Association's top candidate to succeed Gordon Strachan and there has been an official approach from Hampden.

And his McDiarmid Park boss Tommy Wright is front runner to succeed O'Neill should he leave Windsor Park.

Ahead of the Ladbrokes Premiership game against Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday, Paton said: "On a personal level Michael O'Neill has been good for me, he gave me five caps for my country.

"He is a hero to many in Northern Ireland, what he has done there has been incredible.

"The players have done so well but he puts that belief in players that they can do well.

"It is no surprise to me that other countries and clubs are coming calling.

"He will be linked with every job until now until he decides his own future.

"He would be a success in any job he took.

"I need to be careful what I say. I don't want to annoy anyone at the IFA, to be talking him up for Scotland when we want him to stay at Northern Ireland.

"My loyalties lie with Northern Ireland. I am not really bothered about who gets the Scotland job.

"I just want him to stay at Northern Ireland."

The former Dundee United and Partick Thistle player understands perfectly why Wright appears to be a natural successor to O'Neill.

He said: "I had thought that previously that if Michael was to go then the gaffer would be the one they would be looking for.

"He has obviously had success for a number of years at St Johnstone.

"Out of the rest of Northern Irish managers I would say he was the most experienced and he has done the best over previous years.

"There are other candidates as well, Stephen Robinson is doing well at Motherwell. There will be a few names in the hat but I would imagine the gaffer would be number one."

Looking forward to facing Hibs at the weekend, Paton was candid about Saints' poor form which has saw them draw one and lose five of their last six matches.

He said: "We just haven't been good enough.

"We can make excuses and say we have had injuries or this and that.

"The bottom line is we just haven't been good enough, other teams have been better.

"We just need to get back to what we are good at and I am sure if we do that we will start getting points again.

"Three points against anyone would give us a boost."

PA Media

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