I've learned a lot during Michael O'Neill's time as Northern Ireland boss says Craig Cathcart

Defender Craig Cathcart has developed into an established Premier League performer during Michael O'Neill's time in charge of Northern Ireland. Picture by Pacemaker
Neil Loughran

EXPERIENCED defender Craig Cathcart says he will be losing a mentor when Michael O’Neill eventually exits the Northern Ireland job.

O’Neill was named manager of struggling Stoke City last Friday, guiding them to a 4-2 win over Barnsley the following day, but will stay on until the conclusion of Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualification campaign.

With their final two Group C games against the Netherlands at Windsor Park tomorrow night and Germany in Frankfurt next Tuesday, his send off looks likely to come following the play-offs in March.

And Cathcart, an established Premier League defender with Watford, admitted he had learned a lot from O’Neill during his eight years in the hot seat.

“When Michael first came into the squad I wasn’t starting here, there were good players in my position and it was difficult to get in but I never felt like I didn’t want to be involved and learn more,” said the 30-year-old.

“Michael gave me a lot of confidence even before I was in the Premier League. When I was at Blackpool I was in the team and he told me he wanted me to play and I learned a lot of things off him from the tactical side.

“He’s been a big manager for me and I’ve learned a lot from him.”

O’Neill enhanced his reputation no end when he led Northern Ireland to the last European Championships in 2016, and Cathcart believes it is his attention to detail which will see him succeed at the Britannia Stadium.

“Every player on the pitch knows his role going into games. We don’t have any doubts going into games, we watch a lot of video.

“The training is geared towards the matches and I think that’s shown in the results we’ve had, we’ve surprised a lot of people over the years with how we’ve gone.

“He’s a good manager as well. He knows when to speak to people and how to speak to people. He communicates well. He knows when to pull a lad to the side to have a little chat with them and stuff like that.

“I think all round he’s a great manager and he’ll a big miss to us.”

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