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Rangers switch came at cost of my Northern Ireland career: Dean Shiels

Sep 19, 2021

Dean Shiels accrued 14 international caps for Northern Ireland during a seven-year spell, but the Dungannon Swifts manager admits a move to Old Firm giants Rangers scuppered the opportunity to win any more. Between 2005 and 2012, Shiels was a bit-part player for managers Lawrie Sanchez, Nigel Worthington and Michael O’Neill. The 36-year-old began life at Arsenal aged 16, despite being blind in one eye, and nurtured his attacking style of play in North London before moving to Hibernian in 2004. He would spend much of his career in Scotland and, indeed, cites his time at Ibrox as one factor behind missing out on more international appearances. Shiels left Kilmarnock — where his father Kenny had signed him — to answer a clarion call from Ally McCoist, who was tasked with leading Rangers out of the fourth tier of Scottish football after their financial meltdown in 2012. The other was the style of play implemented by Sanchez and Worthington, before he was recalled by the more successful O’Neill. The gifted forward reflected on his career with Sunday Life Sport this week and revealed that, whether he fulfilled his potential or not, it was certainly not for the want of trying. “I don’t know, I certainly gave it everything I had,” says the Magherafelt man. “Maybe at international level because of the managers probably. I think maybe Lawrie Sanchez and Nigel Worthington weren’t particularly... (laughs). The style of play didn’t suit me. “Michael came in and started me in I think his first four games and gave me an opportunity, then I was at a crossroads when Rangers offered me a four-year contract to drop down. “At that stage, Ally McCoist didn’t know what League we were going to be in but I knew dropping to the Third Division was going to affect my international career. “I had a chat with Michael, but it was just an opportunity I had to take at Rangers. “It was a four-year deal and it was a good offer for myself and my family, and that did affect my caps going forward but I have no regrets. “Playing for Rangers and Northern Ireland, for a kid growing up in Northern Ireland was a dream come true and I have no regrets.” Shiels hails O’Neill as one of the influences on his managerial career to date but points to his father as the driving force behind his love affair with the game. “I had lots of influences and worked with great managers, people like Sean O’Driscoll, Tony Mowbray, Michael O’Neill, Mark Warburton at Rangers and I played for my dad at Kilmarnock,” he says. “I think as a young boy it was my dad who drove me into the game, I had a great love for it at a young age. “I think it was him who drove me to be better and to have that resilience to improve and obviously I got to the point where I had enough talent to go across the water (to Arsenal). “He instilled a hard work ethic in me to stay across. So many of our young lads go across and don’t stay but I had that resilience to stay there until I was about 33 and then I came home. “What drove me was to do the best I could with my talent, I didn’t want to waste whatever talent I had. I tried to get the best out of myself. “I think you take lots of good things and bad things from managers, believe it or not you can learn a lot from some of the bad managers. “Then, as I got older, the coaching started to take a grip, I started to analyse sessions and look at why managers were making certain decisions. “I know nothing, only football, and I’ll always try to be involved in the game.” Resilience is a word that crops up regularly in Shiels’ interview, and he insists today’s young players could take a leaf out of former team-mates Steven Davis’ and Jonny Evans’ books. “You have to have resilience,” he adds. “There are so many talented players, especially in Northern Ireland playing in this League or going across the water, and there are so many ups and downs and I think it’s about getting the balance right. “One week you can be brilliant and maybe get carried away then the next week you can have a poor game and then have the world on your shoulders. “It’s about getting the balance between dealing with the highs and lows in football. We all experience them, the highs are what motivates you to go for more then there are so many lows in the game. “I think maybe some young players can’t deal with the lows, or maybe players get too carried away with the highs. “You look at Steven Davis, Jonny Evans, role models for young players, they had that balance. Yes, they had the talent but they had the right personality and the right mentality. “If I could give any advice to young players, it would be to try and be better than you were yesterday and always look to improve. “You see a lot of players who don’t have the attitude. I think kids today have less resilience than previous generations.” Related topics

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