O'Neill: I will restore Northern Irish pride

 

Michael O'Neill intends to "restore a sense of belief and pride" to the Northern Ireland national side after being appointed on a two-year contract by the Irish Football Association yesterday. The former Shamrock Rovers manager was chosen ahead of Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie to replace the departed Nigel Worthington.

He inherits a side that failed to live up to modest expectations in its Euro 2012 qualifiers and must also confront pressing issues of player availability and eligibility which caused problems for Worthington. In the last couple of years Worthington was forced to deal with frequent squad withdrawals and injury absences, while the issue of Northern Ireland-born players pledging their footballing allegiance to the Republic of Ireland became an increasingly thorny problem for the IFA.

But, judging by the 42-year-old's opening statement, he has an appetite for the task. "I am honoured to be chosen to manage my country," said O'Neill, thought to be earning around half the £450,000-a-year paid to his predecessor.

"I am a proud Northern Irishman who was fortunate enough to win 33 senior caps and it was always an ambition to manage my country. To be entrusted with the role early in my managerial career is quite humbling but I am confident that we can make progress.

"Northern Ireland has a strong football tradition but one that needs to be refreshed with some more contemporary success. That is my primary objective – to restore a sense of belief and pride in what it means to represent Northern Ireland so that our players will want only to play for their country. That is how it should be."

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