Former Stoke City and Northern Ireland attacker Martin Paterson believes that Michael O’Neill’s tactical approach means that the Potters have made the right choice in selecting him as Nathan Jones’ successor.
Paterson, who srarted his career with Stoke spending two-years at the Bet365 Stadium between 2005 and 2007, played under O’Neill whilst on international duty with Northern Ireland – and the 32-year-old was part of a Northern Irish squad which O’Neill was aiming to provide a tactical platform to earn results against teams with better quality during his first few years in charge.
O’Neill managed to do just that, with Northern Ireland surprising many by not just qualifying for Euro 2016, but also reaching the last 16 of the tournament in France, which came two-years after Paterson had played his last game for the country in 2014.
Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel, Paterson suggested that O’Neill has all of the right ingredients to be a very successful manager during his time at the Bet365 Stadium, saying: “Tactically at times he has pulled off master strokes, getting results on the board against some of the best. He’s a phenomenal coach and he sets up to be resolute while also giving the team freedom to attack when they’ve got the ball.
“His sides always have an unpredictability. They’re off the cuff in attack.
“He’s been able to get the best out of good footballing midfielders like Steven Davis and Ollie Norwood, who he got to spread the ball about from the moment he came in. He has used younger players and leaned upon the seniors – Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans, Aaron Hughes – to set examples. It’s been a great balance.”
Having worked closely alongside O’Neill during his first few years in charge of Northern Ireland, Paterson is well placed to assess the sort of plan that the 50-year-old puts in place during the early stages of his time in charge of a nation or club, which is vital for providing a platform to develop from.
The former Stoke attacker clearly holds high regard for the way in which O’Neill sets his side up to remain resolute and compact, but also to have that all important freedom in attack to cause problems for the opposition on the counter attack.
That should be very encouraging to Stoke’s supporters, with the Potters in desperate need of a manager coming and making them harder to break down, whilst also enabling them to be more of a threat in the final third – and if O’Neill can reproduce what he did with Northern Ireland he should be able to turn things around for the Potters.