Former Leeds United striker launches stinging attack on national association as qualification misery continues

Ex-Leeds United striker David Healy pinned Northern Ireland’s recent issues on the IFA
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Ex-Leeds United striker David Healy has pinned the blame firmly on the Irish Football Association after Northern Ireland’s miserable Euro 2024 qualifying campaign continued on Sunday.

The Green and White army, currently without injury Leeds star Stuart Dallas, lost 1-0 to Kazakhstan in Astana to mark their fifth defeat in six group games.

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Their only victory came in San Marino as they recorded a 2-0 win in their opening group game but five-straight losses have all-but ended their hopes of competing at next summer’s Euros in Germany. Northern Ireland reappointed Michael O’Neill to take charge after a tough few years under Ian Baraclough but their poor run has continued and Healy is in no doubt who should shoulder the majority of blame.

Healy feels Northern Ireland have stood still while other nations have progressed and he has blamed the IFA for ‘structural failings’.

“Michael (O’Neill) is the correct man for the job but we have to look at the structural failings of the Irish FA,” Healy said on Viaplay Sport after the game.

“They have not put a proper training ground in place as was promised to players and supporters. They have not invested in the youth system and the players. They say they will but the JD Academy is being funded by UEFA.

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“The planning and structure from underage to senior levels is what? I feel for Ian Baraclough who was basically a sitting duck. We don’t want to be sitting here in four years’ time when we haven’t given Michael the tools to get to a major tournament.

“I see enough people working and jobs for people in the Irish FA but what do they contribute? Northern Ireland supporters want a team to be proud of but we are not seeing that.”

He added: “Michael will get to the bottom of this. People need to get their backsides in gear and stop patting one another on the back. But Michael is dealing with the same shortcomings as Ian (Baraclough) faced. People need to sit down and agree a plan going forward or we will have the same issues in the future.

“Michael has inherited the same problems as 10 years ago, scrambling around for training facilities. You are on a hiding to nothing.

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“Kazakhstan and a lot of the so-called lesser nations with smaller populations have improved and I’m sure it’s a frustration for Michael coming back into the job and seeing not much progress.

“A lot of that is down to the Irish FA. We had a financial windfall in terms of what we received for qualifying for the Euros in France and I don’t think we invested it pretty well. You can talk about people holding their heads in shame but people need to be held accountable.”

Healy enjoyed a stunning international career, scoring in a 1-0 win over England in 2005 and netting a hat-trick in a 3-2 victory over Spain 12 months later. He scored 36 international goals in 95 appearances.

He spent three years at Elland Road after joining Leeds from Preston North End in 2004. He left the Whites for Fulham in 2007 after scoring 31 goals in 121 appearances.