BILLY McKinlay has hailed the appointment of Jimmy Nicholl as Northern Ireland assistant manager as the perfect foil for Michael O'Neill.

McKinlay knows O'Neill well and served as his no.2 for two years until he stepped down after being made Watford boss. However, he lost his job at Vicarage Road one week later. But he decided not to ask for his international job back.

He is now assistant to Davie Moyes at Real Sociedad but keeps a strong interest in Northern Ireland, none more so than this week with their games against Scotland and Finland.

McKinlay hopes they get a victory in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Mixu Paatelainen's men next weekend. McKinlay is certain Irish legend Nicholl's experience will be vital in the Group run-in.

He said: "Jimmy has a wealth of knowledge and is respected by everyone in the game. I know how Michael works and having Jimmy alongside him will be just what he needs.

"Listen, I wish I was still there with Michael but circumstances prevented that. However, I still wish Northern Ireland every success and hope they qualify for France. If they beat Finland then they go eight points clear of them. It's a massive game.

"The Scotland will be played before that and with it being a friendly fixture at Hampden it will give Michel the opportunity to try one or two things and give the likes of Jonny Evans some minutes on the pitch.

"It will be an interesting match and a good test for both sides. It will be a game back in Scotland for Steve Davis and Kyle Lafferty. Steve has been outstanding for his country in this campaign and is leading by example. Kyle can be real asset to the team when he is playing to a standard he is capable of.

"Scotland will also want a good run-out ahead of the match against Gibraltar. Gordon Strachan has the team playing really well and both countries will go into in a confident frame of mind."