For any football club heading off to an international tournament, there are worse people to ask for tactical advice than Michael O’Neill.
The former Hibernian winger took an unfancied Northern Ireland side to this summer’s European Championships in France where they continued to defy expectations by reaching the knockout stages before eventually falling to a Gareth Bale-inspired Wales.
Now Currie Star FC’s 2005 group will have the opportunity as the Northern Ireland boss joins Sky Sports presenter David Tanner for a one-off live interview at The Corn Exchange on Saturday, September 24 in a bid to raise funds to take the squad to Sweden for the internationally acclaimed Gothia Cup.
Star’s coach, Richard Lewis, said he was “extremely grateful” to the pair for stepping in to help raise funds.
“Both our daughters play in the same team, Boroughmuir Thistle U13’s, I’d met Michael through that,” he said.
“We went to Gothia last year with Thistle and he was out there supporting them so I think he knows how important it is.
“I asked him, though to be honest I didn’t think he would be up for it. But to my surprise he was more than willing to help out. David Tanner is local too, his son plays for my team, we all live in a similar area.”
O’Neill will be speaking about his leadership of the Northern Ireland squad through qualification and the European Championships, with Richard hoping to pick his brains ahead of July’s tournament. “For us, I’m interested in how he kept his players motivated, obviously on a totally different scale to us,” said Richard, 44.
“We’re going to be playing four half-hour matches – possibly more than that if we get further in the tournament – so there might be quite a bit of downtime, I’d love to know how he kept his players hungry.”
The youth football tournament – which will celebrate its 42nd year in July – is one of the largest of its kind, with over 1600 teams from 80 nations across various age groups taking part.
Star will be hoping to emulate the feats of World Cup winners Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso by claiming a winners’ medal in Gothenburg. “Gothia is a fantastic experience for youngsters especially at this time in their development,” he said.
“They’re away with their team mates, so as a bonding experience, it’s phenomenal plus they are interacting with and playing against kids from other countries and cultures who have different styles of play so they develop on the pitch too.”
Their fundraising efforts have already yielded over £1000 through a quiz night, car washing, sponsored runs and even duck racing. However, they’re hoping that the night with O’Neill will be their flagship event.
“It costs around £25,000 for 27 kids, six coaches and potentially parents to travel, rent accommodation, tournament fees etc,” he said.
“This is our flagship fundraiser though, we’re hoping to sell 250 tickets which will make up the bulk of our funds, otherwise we run the risk of some kids not being able to go.”
Tickets are available online via www.curriestarfc.co.uk, priced at £16.50.