Former Preston favourite David Healy has been backed to have a long and successful career in management.
Northern Ireland’s all-time leading goal scorer, still North End’s record signing after his £1.5 million move from Manchester United back in 2000, has enjoyed a fine start to life in the dugout.
The 37-year-old took on his maiden managerial gig with Belfast club Linfield in 2015 with the Blues not having won the Irish League or Irish Cup since 2012.
Healy, however, guided them to both in his first full season last term and has now been tipped for further success by current Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill.
“David did a bit of scouting for us and I think he found he was at that point where maybe after playing you’re not sure about coaching, and I’m sure he was a little bit undecided,” said O’Neill.
“He phoned me when the Linfield job came up and I told him to take it. I felt at that stage it was what he needed.
“He’s done brilliantly. David has a very, very bright future as a manager, I’ve no doubts about that.
“I wouldn’t have said David would have naturally been a manager (when he was playing).
“Sometimes players don’t really realise it until they can’t play and maybe David came into that category.
“There are others thinking about being a manager when they’re 23, 24, and you’re saying, ‘Just concentrate on playing’.
“David was one that maybe didn’t have that grand plan but when the opportunity was presented to him it was the right timing for him in his life and it gave him a bit of direction after playing as well.”
The obvious question for Healy, who scored 44 goals in PNE colours, is whether he will at some point be lured across the water, where he enjoyed an extensive playing career that also included spells with Leeds, Fulham and Rangers, having come through the youth ranks at Old Trafford.
“He wants to progress,” O’Neill said.
“He’ll be limited in terms of the domestic game here because it’s not going to offer him a huge amount of progression.
“He can only go so far – I know that from my time in the League of Ireland with Shamrock Rovers. There’s a time to leave.
“I did three years at Shamrock Rovers. David’s not even be at Linfield two years. The key is not to be in a rush to make that decision.”