O'Neill still believes in Healy

06 August 2013 07:01

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill has stressed his belief that striker David Healy still has "loads to offer" at club and international level after leaving the free agent out of his 20-man squad for next week's World Cup qualifying home clash with Russia.

Healy, his country's record scorer with 36 goals, is currently unattached having been released by Bury in May.

The 34-year-old is among three players without a club that O'Neill has opted to leave out of his party for the rearranged Group F game at Windsor Park next Wednesday, along with defender Chris Baird, let go by Fulham this summer, and midfielder Paddy McCourt, whose last employers were Celtic.

The manager says the trio are on standby, though, and regarding Healy, he told Press Association Sport: "David still has loads to offer I believe.

"I think if he finds a manager who has faith in him and gives him the opportunity, he is more than capable of scoring goals for a club and still at international level.

"I think it is very difficult for any of our players who are unattached at the minute, and having spoken to the players themselves, they are in full agreement with that."

O'Neill has also chosen not to select New York Red Bulls' Jonny Steele, who he last month suggested would "get his chance soon".

Asked about the midfielder, O'Neill explained: "With this being a friendly international day, we can call players in but we can't prevent them from playing for their clubs.

"Jonny has a game this weekend so he probably would have got to us late on Monday or possibly even Tuesday. It would be unrealistic to ask him to do that.

"I did discuss the situation with (Red Bulls sporting director) Andy Roxburgh and I think we both felt it may be better for Jonny if we looked further down the line a little bit."

Source: PA