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Refreshing change from dull England.

Byline: Like us on Facebook facebook.com/newcastlechronicle Mick United's former No 9 is No 1 for hard-hitting opinion Follow us on Twitter @EveningChron Mick QUINN

WATCHING England frustrates the life out of me and I usually dread international breaks, but seeing my former Newcastle United team-mate Michael O'Neill guide Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 this week has been like a breath of fresh air.

It's also been great to see Wales reach next year's finals, though they have a worldclass performer in Gareth Bale and some Premier League class in Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams. Northern Ireland don't have any of that. It's an outstanding achievement. What O'Neill has done is get the very best out of a hard-working, committed bunch of players. Individually, they do not have any players who you would really consider to be 'stars',' but the collective is so much more than the sum of its parts.

I'm glad to see my old team-mate doing so well - and I didn't ever really see him becoming a manager.

We didn't play together for long at Newcastle but during training O'Neill w a s extremely quiet and reserved, although he was young in fairness. He didn't strike me straightaway as management material. But he has proven he really is.

He was one of the most talented young players I have ever seen - he had brilliant skills and an eye for goal - and he got dubbed the 'next Paul Gascoigne',' but unfortunately he never really fulfilled that potential as a player.

Instead, he is proving himself to be a top coach who can get the very best out of his players.

I was gutted for another of my former Magpies teammates in Mark McGhee though, with Scotland agonisingly missing out on a play-off place in the last minute.

All of this excitement was a nice break from the turgid football England play under Roy Hodgson. I honestly believe he is a dinosaur.

We have the most exciting group of youngsters we have had in years - the likes of Ross Barkley, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, to name just a few - yet I bet when it comes to the Euros next year Roy will fill the side with the James Milners of this world.

It's boring, defence-first stuff. It always has been with Hodgson.

I hope he proves me wrong and we go and have a real go at the Euros, but watching England bores me senseless. I find it painful.

It's been a real breath of fresh air watching the likes of O'Neill and Northern Ireland prove how exciting international football can actually be.

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 14, 2015
Words:443
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