Tanya Oxtoby hails Northern Ireland’s Nations League learnings

Northern Ireland head coach Tanya Oxtoby believes that her Nations League learning experience is going to plan ahead of the European Championship Qualifiers.

The Australian coach, 41, was named head coach in September 2023 and has since helped her side retain their crucial spot in League B after winning the promotion/relegation play-off against Montenegro 3-1 on aggregate.

Northern Ireland will now face Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malta with hopes of reaching the European Championships once again after making their senior major tournament debut in 2022.

“It’s been a whirlwind six months as we’ve gone into a round of competitive fixtures with a new team and new staff,” she said, speaking at the Women In Football Be Inspired Conference in partnership with Barclays.

“It’s been a challenge but one that we embraced well.

“Our job was to stay in League B and with the Euro Qualifiers it was also really important that we did that.

“And I think we did that in a way that we wanted to as well.

“We’ve learnt a lot about ourselves as a group and now in our new campaign will be looking to improve that.”

With the likes of Rachel Furness and Marissa Callaghan on the team, Northern Ireland have their fare share of experienced players.

But Oxtoby noted her excitement of bringing in the next generation, noting a heart warming moment as 19-year-old Keri Halliday made her senior team debut against Albania in front of a roaring crowd of supporters.

“Keri coming off the bench in the playoffs and being surrounded by her U19’s teammates in the crowd, was just an amazing story to see in itself,” she added.

“And we need to see more of that as more young players come through.”

Oxtoby was invited to be a speaker on a panel entitled ‘Work/Life Balance – What’s That?’ at the recent Women In Football Be Inspired Conference in partnership with Barclays.

The two-day event at Wembley Stadium was attended by approximately 800, with Oxtoby opening up about the importance of creating a sustainable work/life balance as a mother in football, including standing your ground when others might have different views.

“We have to prioritise what’s important in life,” she said.

“Everyday is a new challenge with a three-year-old so it’s about being agile and making sure I’m present for him in the evenings.

“That’s my choice and I’m clear with everyone in my environment that that is my priority.

“Everyone is going to have a different take on that and they might not agree but you have to stick to your guns.

“Sharing stories is important because I’ve had people come up to me at the end to talk about their experiences and normalising some of the situations that happen when you’re trying to be a working mother.

“The safe space that Women In Football provides is the perfect place to do that.”

Image credit: Matthew Dickens/BeatMedia

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