Northern Ireland captain Marissa Callaghan has backed manager Kenny Shiels following his controversial comments on Tuesday.
Shiels apologised for saying “women are more emotional than men” following NI’s 5-0 defeat by England on Tuesday.
“Collectively we stand by our manager,” said Callaghan.
The midfielder said the comments came in the context of a meeting between Shiels and the squad which highlighted conceding goals in quick succession.
“We feel his interview was in relation to a meeting we had as a team where we analysed that we concede goals in quick succession, and emotions was one of the many things we discussed,” added Callaghan.
“Since Kenny took over our national team three years ago, I have always complimented him publicly on how he can get the best out of his players individually and collectively. He is a man of integrity who cares for us like we are family.”
After his side’s 5-0 defeat by England, Shiels said: “Girls and women are more emotional than men. So they take a goal going in not very well.”
His remarks drew widespread criticism, including from former England players Siobhan Chamberlain and Ian Wright.
On Wednesday, the 65-year-old apologised for the offence caused and said he was “an advocate for the women’s game and passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to flourish”.
Callaghan said: “Kenny has transformed the game here in Northern Ireland because he understands how to get the best out of his players.
“We have qualified for a major tournament because he transformed our mindset. We look forward to the next few months as we continue to prepare for the Euros this summer.”
Shiels’ comment came after his side had lost to England in front of a crowd of 15,348 – a record for a women’s football match in the country. Callaghan said selling out Windsor Park was a “pivotal moment” for the game in Northern Ireland.
“We as players and staff will continue as a team to help grow the game and inspire the next generation of young players and fans,” she said.
Shiels was appointed manager of the senior women’s team in May 2019, having previously led Kilmarnock and Derry City’s men’s teams.
He oversaw Northern Ireland’s successful Euro 2022 play-off campaign, which saw them secure the country’s first ever qualification for a major women’s tournament.
Shiels described his side’s qualification as the “UK’s greatest sporting achievement”.