HomeSportHome Euros 'massive' for new NI U19 boss McAuley

Home Euros ‘massive’ for new NI U19 boss McAuley

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McAuley scored one of the most iconic goals in Northern Ireland’s historyNew Northern Ireland Under-19 boss Gareth McAuley says his side playing in the 2024 European Finals as hosts is a big focus for him as he starts the job.The former Premier League defender has taken charge of the side after previously being on the coaching staff.Having won 80 NI caps as a player, McAuley is passionate about using his experiences to develop young talent.”Massively, straight away,” he said when asked how much he will focus on next summer’s U19 Euros.”How the tournament falls next year, we could have about 50 players to select from. It is a good problem to have but obviously that also means there are a few you are not selecting as well but some of them will come again. It is all competition for them. “It’s great for us to go up against the best teams in Europe. It’s great for us to stage it here and hopefully when it comes around we can get people into the stadiums and give the boys an experience of what it feels like to play in front of a crowd first and foremost.”That it is not something they will have experienced too often, a passionate crowd that want them to do well.”‘I want to give them opportunities to have the life I had’Michael O’Neill now has Tommy Wright as his Under 21 manager and McAuley in charge of the Under 19sMcAuley was unveiled as the new manager of the Northern Ireland Under-19 team at Windsor Park by senior boss Michael O’Neill, who also announced Tommy Wright as the country’s new Under-21 manager.The former centre-half, who retired in 2019 from a playing career that included spells at Leicester City, West Brom and Rangers, was assistant to previous NI U19 manager Gerard Lyttle, who stepped down from the role earlier this year.While working under Lyttle, McAuley spent a lot of time watching Northern Ireland youngsters playing for their academy teams in England, and spoke at his unveiling about how passionate he is about developing young talent”It is something I am passionate about, getting the young players to realise what they have got and the chance that they have got, and what it means to represent Northern Ireland,” continued.”I want to give them opportunities to, if you like, have the experiences and the life that I had myself. “Yes, we are a small nation but we are a passionate nation and there are quite a few players in the age groups and in the academy who, with the right guidance, can hopefully come through and have good club careers and represent their country.” McAuley wants ‘person before player’ cultureWith Northern Ireland having lost players to the Republic of Ireland after they have come through the Irish FA’s underage set-up, McAuley stressed the importance of engendering a positive environment when the players meet up to play for him.”Yes, massively, it’s a thing I’ll bring in to it. I’m very much ‘person before player’. It will be a culture driven by standards but standards set by themselves,” he explained.”They will create their own culture and hopefully they will take that on board so that when they get through to Tommy [Wright, the new NI U21 boss] they are managing themselves.” McAuley was a hugely popular player for Northern Ireland and earned iconic status amongst their supporters when he scored the country’s first-ever goal at a European Championship finals in 2016.He acknowledges that his standing as a player will be beneficial to him in his new role, but stressed the need for the players themselves to drive their own development.”I’ve walked the walk, if you like. It gives you a certain element where you can come from that experience and the kids get a lot of buy-in to it,” he said.”Ultimately, though, it is not really about me, it is about the players and about their journey. Yes, I can help guide them but it is going to be up to them how far they want to go in the game. “What decisions they make, how they make the next step. It is a real personal journey for them. Coaches help, mentor and motivate but ultimately it is down to what the individual wants to do with their career.”

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