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Tanya Oxtoby: What did we learn from meeting the new Northern Ireland manager?

New Northern Ireland manager Tanya Oxtoby met the media for the first time on Friday in a press conference at Windsor Park.

With her first game, against the Republic of Ireland, just three weeks away, nothing was off topic as Oxtoby talked about her squad, the first match and even the controversy in Spain.

Here are five takeaways from Oxtoby's first press conference as manager.

Aiming to bring winning mentality

After working under Emma Hayes at Chelsea, it is safe to say that Oxtoby has picked up a thing or two about success.

In her two years with the Women's Super League club, Oxtoby helped Chelsea to two league titles and three cup triumphs and she hopes to bring that winning mentality into her new role.

"For me, the one biggest learning from that environment is making sure you have got your processes right," Oxtoby said about her time at Chelsea.

"If you get that right, then players understand what they need to be doing, and then it is the consistency of applying those and making sure they are prepared for everything that can happen on the pitch and make good decisions.

"Keeping standards high, making sure every single day we are coming in and every single game we are working at the best of our ability.

"Sometimes it doesn't go your way, that's football but you control everything you can to the best of your ability.

"For me, having worked with Emma for a long time, and the greatest learning I took from her is you don't get a day off in football, and every single day you have to have your standards right up there or you get found out."

Lauren James and Tanya Oxtoby
Tanya Oxtoby worked with some of the best players in the world, such as Lauren James, when at Chelsea

Getting young players to the WSL - if it's the right move

When Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2022, it was done with a group of players who largely played their club football in the Women's Premiership.

Since then, Lauren Wade and Jackie Burns have joined Reading, where they both impressed, and Oxtoby wants to encourage more talent to make the move to England - but only if it is right.

"We have had numerous discussions about what is going to be best for each individual player," Oxtoby added.

"That's important and it has to be a player-centred decision.

"The connections I've got in England are going to help if we feel it is the right time for those players to be progressing into that environment.

"We want to make sure the environment is right for the player. We don't want to put players into situations where they are not going to develop.

"We want them to be playing and have the infrastructure and support around them. Having that intricate knowledge of the system, particularly in England, is going to help make good choices for our players."

Succession plans in place

While not wishing to retire the senior members of the squad, it would be foolish not to note that there will have to be some succession planning over the next campaign or two.

Several players, including Julie Nelson, Marissa Callaghan and Rachel Furness, have been working on their coaching badges, and when asked if she would consider bringing any of them into her backroom team, Oxtoby said she is passionate about helping players transition after their playing career comes to an end.

"One of the things Angela [Platt, director of women's football] and I have spoken about is the transitioning players and making sure we support them when the time is right," she added.

"It's something I am really passionate about, making sure that we look after those players who have given so much to the game, in whatever capacity that is.

"It may be coaching, it may be media - but we need to make sure we support players and help them transition after football.

"We have scope to make changes [to the backroom team] and add things and do things if we need to, but we need to assess where we are at first."

On the other hand, Oxtoby adds the mix between experience and youth is "a real positive" and her job "is to find out what the best mix for that is".

"That is going to take a little bit of time. The door is open for everybody and, like we spoke about in the processes and being tactically flexible, it is about picking the right squad that is going to bring that to life.

"The future is bright and it's about trying to get that balance right."

Not afraid to speak on the biggest issues

Oxtoby also addressed the biggest story in women's football recently - Luis Rubiales' behaviour following Spain's World Cup triumph, which has made headlines around the globe.

Given it was her first meeting with the media, you could have forgiven Oxtoby for not going into too much detail when asked her thoughts on the events, but she fronted them up head on.

"Firstly, as a female, watching that was uncomfortable. You can see the reaction world wide," she said.

"The positive, if you like, from this situation is that Pain's performance on the pitch has shone a light on this topic and this issue.

"Hopefully, it will inspire some change, systemic change, and we'll be in a position where the players are better supported.

"From my point of view, it's maybe more of a long-term issue that has been around but the performance at the World Cup has shone a light on maybe something they had tried to bring to the forefront before.

"The on-pitch performance has brought it to light, rightly or wrongly, and I just hope for the players' sake that they get the support that they need to continue to be the best version of themselves."

Closing the gap

Northern Ireland's qualification for Euro 2022 and the success of smaller or unfancied nations at the Women's World Cup in the summer - such as Jamaica, South Africa and Colombia - has highlighted the international landscape becoming more competitive.

"The gap is closing. I think we can see that with the results and performances," Oxtoby said.

"For me, one of the key things is making sure the players are tactically understand when and where to apply things, and being in environments that is going to be good for them consistently.

"That is really important and that is why we have seen the gap close. More leagues are in positions where they can offer their players competitive games on a regular basis. It's definitely something we were discussing this morning and we feel we are in a really good place to give it a shake up."

"Given the nature of Northern Ireland, the player pool is going to be small compared to other nations. We're seeing more and more teams expanding their pool by looking to those with connections in the USA or England, much like the Republic of Ireland in recent years.

"We're always looking for talent. As I get my feet under the table a little bit more we'll maybe look to explore some of those options.

"We have a fantastic group that we can work with now and some great younger players coming through. Football is all about making sure you don't keep the blinkers on, so we will be making sure we are exploring any options we need to."