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Saturday 21 April 2018

O'Neill frustrated by player resources

NORTHERN IRELAND manager Michael O'Neill admits he has reached a dead end in his efforts to expand the country's player pool.

Like most of his predecessors in the post, O'Neill has spent plenty of time poring over lists of uncapped players from the home nations to see if any are eligible for his side.

When he was appointed nearly two years ago he was enthusiastic about the possibility of unearthing new talent for the senior squad but, aside from Scotland-born defender James McPake, he has found the process a frustrating one.

The promised land of the Premier League in particular has proved barren.

"There are none in the Premier League who are eligible and are prepared to come and play for Northern Ireland," O'Neill admitted. "When I got the job, I went through every Premier League squad to find out those players who are not playing international football somewhere else.

"There are not many Premier League players who don't play international football already.

"We contacted all the agents. The process originally was to look at all players from England, Scotland and Wales. I would love to tell you there are some hidden gems out there, but there just aren't."

O'Neill thought he was close to finding some joy at Championship level only for a variety of stumbling blocks to get in the way.

Watford striker Troy Deeney appeared to be the most promising but his family link was too distant.

Huddersfield's Sean Scannell remains on the radar along with Notts County's David Bell and Millwall's Liam Feeney.

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