MICHAEL O'NEILL, the Northern Ireland manager, believes his players are now better off trying to forge a career in Scotland than down in England.

O'Neill, the former Dundee United and Hibernian midfielder who also managed Brechin City, was in Glasgow yesterday to name his squad for the forthcoming friendly against Scotland at Hampden.

With almost half of his group either based here or with prior experience of Scottish football, O'Neill believes the SPFL Premiership is a good place for Northern Irish players to develop.

"It's an easy one for our lads to come here and play," he said. "What's happened in the English game is that players maybe reach a certain point and then they're not getting a club in the Championship. Their options then become more limited and the Scottish Premiership becomes a good option. Sammy Clingan is a good example of that. He had a really good career in the Championship with a number of clubs. So I think it's an easy fit for our lads to come here.

"For me, personally, I would encourage our young players to come here, rather than going to England. I think the opportunity to establish themselves as first-team players will be easier here than there. They'll get a better chance here. When I go to games here I think Scottish football is in a lot better shape than people give it credit for. Obviously there's the financial aspect and the Rangers side of things but I remember being at an Aberdeen versus Dundee United game about 18 months ago and there were eight or nine under-21 players on the pitch. That's fantastic. A few years ago there would have been nine Scandinavians - that doesn't help your national team. I also think the players are well coached here. The best coaches I worked under were always at Scottish clubs, rather than English ones."