Michael O'Neill believes that the playing of God Save The Queen before Northern Ireland international games was a disadvantage to the team he managed for over eight years.
O'Neill, who also won 31 caps for the North, led the team to its first ever European Championships in 2016. He feels that the anthem alienated players from a nationalist background.
"I felt we were at a disadvantage in the anthem, because I could see how other countries would either sing their anthem or display real patriotism, you know, a real togetherness, real emotion during the anthem. And we never really got that," said O'Neill, speaking in a documentary titled Game Of Two Halves which airs at 8pm on ITV on Tuesday.
"When I came in I could see that a lot of the players from nationalist backgrounds would stand with their head down."
I’ve been working on a programme which marks 100 years since Irish football split in two, and examines the ongoing repercussions. Viewers in Northern Ireland can watch it next Tuesday at 8pm on UTV. #GameOfTwoHalves #GAWA pic.twitter.com/zIuR1Op4mf
— Ian Woods (@IanWoodsMedia) December 2, 2021
In an attempted to create greater togetherness pre-match, O'Neill said management got players to link arms during the anthems.
Michael O'Neill on God Save The Queen as Northern Ireland anthem
"The nationalist players were requested that, whilst they may not sing the anthem that they would respect it and they would stand with their head not bowed," said the current Stoke City manager.
"And I felt it was important for those players to respect the lads in the squad who did regard it as their anthem as well. And so not to have body language, which would appear disrespectful as well.
"I just felt we needed something that potentially, we could use as our identity the same way, as you know, if you ask someone from Wales or Scotland, where they're from, they'll tell you they're Scottish, or Welsh, they won't say they're British.
"When you're a small nation as well, there's something that you have to harness and it's something that I still think could be looked at."