Warren Feeney: Bulgarian-based boss would love to manage Northern Ireland

Warren Feeney
Warren Feeney scored five goals in 46 international appearances

Former Northern Ireland striker Warren Feeney admits he would "love" to manage his country but says his focus is on club management.

Feeney took charge of Bulgarian outfit OFC Pirin Blagoevgrad in November after leaving Championship club Ards.

"I loved to play for my country and I'd love to manage my country, it's in my blood," said Feeney.

"I'd be flattered to be linked with the job but it's not something I am thinking about at this moment in time."

The future of Michael O'Neill, who was set to leave his position as NI boss after the Euro 2020 play-offs in March, is unclear after the qualifying games and Finals were postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Michael has done a great job and it is unfortunate with the way things have worked out," said Feeney.

"You don't know what can happen around the corner, but I'm focusing totally on my job here and rebuilding."

People have to listen and stay indoors

Before the league was suspended at the beginning of March due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Feeney had led Pirin to 11th in the Bulgarian second tier.

As of Wednesday, there had been 24 recorded coronavirus-related deaths in Bulgaria and the Northern Irishman admits the lockdown in the country has been strict.

"It was a difficult one. It got to the point where they were doing roadblocks coming in and out of the town," he said.

"No one is allowed to train. There's a 5,000 Bulgarian Lev fine (roughly £2,500) if you are caught out in a park running, and if you are in a sports ground then it is 50,000 lev (roughly £22,500).

"You don't want to see anyone passing away, but when you compare it to the rest of Europe and the world I think they have done a very good job," said Feeney.

Warren Feeney
Feeney played for Bournemouth, Luton Town, Cardiff City and Plymouth Argyle in his club career

Lockdown in Bulgaria was meant to last for three or four weeks but it has been extended until 13 May to try and deal with the crisis.

Feeney was left with a decision to risk travelling back home to see his family in Northern Ireland, or remain out in Bulgaria during lockdown.

The 39-year-old ultimately chose the latter and feels it "was a wise decision".

"Yes, you miss your family but you have to look at the bigger picture and health is more important," he added.

"I read the news from back home every day. The NHS are doing a fantastic job but people seem a big ignorant to it and underestimate it.

"They have to listen and stay indoors."

You can't wave a magic wand

Feeney, who won 46 caps for Northern Ireland, says he returned home after "losing interest" in English football after spells with Crawley Town and Notts County.

"I took the Ards job and I loved it there," said Feeney, "It's a club with great people but I got a call with this opportunity to manage in Bulgaria.

"I thought to myself I would go and have a look at it and I was blown away by the project at the club.

"I was gobsmacked with how lovely the town is and I feel at home here and I want to succeed here."

Warren Feeney
Feeney couldn't save Ards from relegation in his time with the club

The Belfast native admits the coronavirus outbreak has caused havoc to the football season with the prospect of a two-week turnaround between the conclusion of the current campaign and the beginning of the next.

Covid-19 has also interrupted his transfer plans and says it has thrown player contracts up in the air.

"I know what football is like, you can't just wave a magic wand," added Feeney.

"You just have to wake up every day and give it 100 percent."

Top Stories

Also in NI Sport