Shane Ferguson

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Former Newcastle midfielder Michael O'Neill has backed current Magpies youngster Shane Ferguson to keep on making an impact for Club and country.

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill made 48 league appearances in black and white between 1987 and 1989 and has given Ferguson seven caps since taking over as manager of the national team in December 2011.

That faith has been repaid by United's Derry-born 21-year-old, who scored his first goal in green against Finland last August, and O'Neill has been impressed with the left-footer's performances.

Speaking to BBC Newcastle, O'Neill said: "Shane has been a player who wasn't involved at international level prior to me coming in. I introduced him to the squad and we liked him straight away.

"He's a clever player, a sharp player in possession and has a lot of really good attributes.

"He's not that big and physically strong; people might hold that against him but he's got a great manipulation of the ball and really good game intelligence."

Ferguson made 14 appearances for Newcastle last season and finished the campaign on loan with Birmingham under another ex-Magpie, Lee Clark.

And O'Neill admitted: "He's at an age now where he needs to play. Certainly going out to Birmingham was a bonus for him - he was getting games and was on the fringes at Newcastle before the transfer window opened and then an influx of new players made it more difficult for him to make the breakthrough.

"From his point of view he just wants to continue playing. When he goes back to Newcastle he'll hope to be making inroads into the first team again. If not then he'll probably look at his options with regards to going out on loan and playing elsewhere."

Click here to buy a new Newcastle United change shirt with Ferguson's name and number on the back